As we honor Black Historical past Month, the Human Rights Marketing campaign is dedicated to and centered on racial justice, fairness and inclusion and combatting discrimination in all varieties. The previous 12 months has introduced the implications of unchecked racism into sharp focus, which in so some ways aligns and intersects with the experiences of the transgender neighborhood.
In 2020, HRC tracked a record number of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people, nearly all of them Black trans ladies. That is the results of misogyny, racism and transphobia that’s deeply rooted in society; we should work to finish the stigma of being Black and trans and fight this epidemic of deadly violence.
Because the Director of Group Engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, I’m decided to finish this appalling epidemic of anti-Blackness and anti-transness. When HRC began the Transgender Justice Initiative, we dedicated ourselves to enhancing the lives of the multiply-marginalized: those that have intersectional identities and are most impacted by the intersectional discrimination of our society. We have interaction in organizational assist by internet hosting justice and advocacy summits in a number of cities to attach native and nationwide trans activists to share concepts and make invaluable connections. By means of our small grants program, we awarded $30,000 nationally within the type of thirty $1,000 grants to neighborhood members advancing transgender justice initiatives. To handle the financial fallout brought on by COVID-19, we additionally partnered with Vacation spot Tomorrow, the Bronx’s LGBTQ middle, to create a $10,000 COVID-19 relief fund.
The intersection of the Black and transgender expertise is one which I do know effectively. The truth is, attending an HBCU was one of many main keys to establishing my very own identification as a proud Black trans girl. Throughout my first week on campus at Norfolk State College, I spent an hour sitting in entrance of the library watching all the unimaginable, sensible, colourful and numerous Black folks that I might come to know over the subsequent few years. It was such an eye fixed opening expertise to understand that there isn’t anyone strategy to be Black, and that I didn’t have to adapt to anybody’s expectations of Blackness. How somebody chooses to precise their race, their gender, their sexuality — it’s all private! This secure area gave me the chance to discover by piercing my ears and attempting on new garments. No person checked out me like I used to be doing one thing fallacious. Regardless of our distinction, all of us need to be part of a welcoming Black neighborhood.
We all know that trans historical past is a vital a part of Black historical past. Think about William Dorsey Swann, a Black man who endured slavery and lived by the Civil Warfare and its racist aftermath. Within the Eighteen Eighties, Swann turned the primary American activist to guide a queer resistance group and the primary recognized particular person to dub himself a “queen of drag” — or, extra familiarly, a drag queen.
My favourite Black queer icon is Sylvester, recognized to many as “The Queen of Disco.” Though he recognized as a person, he discovered neighborhood amongst Black drag queens and trans ladies. Sylvester’s daring, gender non-conforming style and singing made him right into a star. Listening to his music and watching him on TV allowed me to really feel at residence in my very own identification. Sylvester died tragically of AIDS, however his story lives on as a unprecedented illustration of the Black queer expertise.
With out the distinctive contributions of Black LGBTQ folks, LGBTQ rights in America wouldn’t be what they’re immediately. One of the simplest ways to honor this legacy is to construct upon it and to proceed pushing for full, intersectional liberation. In 2021, HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative will additional its dedication to supporting the Black trans neighborhood, together with a stronger concentrate on HIV work. We’re beginning with a partnership with Gilead to offer a $3.2 million grant to assist communities disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic in america, notably communities of shade. This 12 months, we’re additionally engaged on many extra initiatives centered on fairness and inclusion.
True liberation requires all of us to be united in defeating oppression. None of us will be free till all of us are free. This Black Historical past Month, we’re reminded of the invaluable work of our Black, queer ancestors and of the essential work nonetheless but to be carried out.