Death is unpleasant. That unpleasantness and sadness rises to tragedy when the deaths are violent, and brutal. An in 2017, this kind of death is now tragically tied to the experiences of Black trans and non-binary individuals.
To watch my timeline on social media turn into a rapid makeshift memorial for a well known female illusionist and transwoman, Chyna “Doll Dupree” Gibson, here in Houston is bittersweet to me. On one hand, on the sweet hand, seeing the beautiful display of memories she has shared with people all over the United States is simply amazing. And the outpouring of support for the trans community is equally amazing. So why is she no longer with us? That’s the other hand, the bitter one.
As of this writing, there have been 8 deaths of these beautiful spirits across the country. Not to mention the fact that the government is attempting to vilify them with policies that will put them in even more danger. I don’t want to draw a straight line connection between trans and tragedy, but we should only be celebrating the joy and loving impact of our trans family, and too often we are not.
Being LGBTQ--especially transgender--in the American South has us fighting to just be able to walk in a restroom and use it without issue. Basic human rights seem to be a privilege that we just can’t attain. We fight on every level and still get up, put our best foot forward, and live life as best we know how. It sometimes seems we should be fearful to go alone anywhere. I legitimately feel scared for my trans family and especially my trans sisters to be alone. There should be know question to researchers, advocates, and politicians why there are so many disparities of health, income, and other socioeconomic issues with the broader LGBTQ People of Color demographic.
It seems transgender people have it the worse when it comes to murder, though. Statistics don’t lie. An article in PolitiFact Texas dating back to 2015 has Garnet Coleman, a State Representative of Texas, saying, “Transgender individuals in the U.S. have a 1-in-12 chance of being murdered. The average person has a 1-in-18,000 chance.” This is the narrative. And we know there are very few cases where these murderers are prosecuted and result in convictions.
When viewed in this context, is it even possible for all of us of any political, religious, racial, or gendered group to just agree that as humans that bleed the same blood, love from the same heart, and hurt from the same spirit, that people dying for being themselves is wrong?
And let’s be clear: the thoughts and broken morals that allow others to disregard the lives of trans people begin elsewhere. It starts when you misgender people even though you are clearly aware how they present themselves, when you allow your insecurities and privilege to take root, when you coddle fragile masculinity and advocate for “restroom bills’. This is how a culture ends up helping make killers comfortable in their inhumane killing of my brothers, sisters, and non-binary family.
No longer can we remain in our many intersections and be silent; not ever, but not now. If you don’t understand sexuality or gender expression, pretend Google exists: there are many of us who have done the work to inform you if that is what you truly desire. If you understand and know that this these killings are detestable, say something. SIlence is tacit acceptance and approval. So speak up. Say something. At least, at the very least, respect them enough to say their names.
We speak your name, Ciara. We speak your name, Chyna. We speak your name, Jaquarrius. We speak your name, Mesha. We speak your name, Jamie Lee. We speak your name, Tiara. We speak your name, Jojo. We speak your name, Alphonza. And we won’t stop.
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