Tomorrow, we will be conducting a panel with Isis King and Leyna Bloom about confronting prejudice against the LGBTQIA community. For more information, click here.
Black trans women, along with trans women of color, are under attack.
As I type, my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana is mourning the shooting death of Brooklyn DeShauna Smith, a 20-year-old trans woman. She became the 32nd trans or gender non-conforming person to be killed this year. Smith’s death speaks to a larger issue that we aren’t talking about enough — the noticeable disconnect between cisgendered people’s celebration of trans representation on shows like Pose, and the real life treatment of Black trans women.
Young trans women are targets for violence, especially if they are sex workers. Trans women are shamed and harmed in both real and digital spaces, for nothing more than being themselves.
Crimes against trans women are especially volatile because the women are regularly deadnamed, or referred to by the birth name they no longer use, as well as misgendered. Often times, their deaths aren’t even reported as hate crimes. In July 2019, BBC recalled the murder of Dallas resident Shade Schuler and how her birth name and outdated photos were used in police appeals. Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox spoke on this last year, in a heavy post about how disappointed she was in law enforcement for repeatedly disrespecting her late trans sisters. She wrote, “This misgendering and deadnaming also impedes the investigations into these murders…I have been saying for years that misgendering a trans person is an act of violence. When I say that I am referring to cultural and structural violence.”
Cox is not the only star who has been an active trans advocate. For the Daily Front Row’s 2019 Fashion Media Awards, actress and model Indya Moore wore earrings made up of framed photos of Black trans women who have been murdered this year. The jeweler behind the earrings, Areeayl Yoseefaw Goodwin, took to Instagram to talk about how necessary the earrings’ message was. “The issue is so pressing that after creating the earring and three days before the event, Bailey Reeves, a 17 year old [trans] girl from Baltimore was killed,” she wrote. Moore honored Bailey by carrying a frame around of her face.
“Just like me, these women dare to exhaust their freedom to exist by being visible; however, instead of being celebrated, they were punished for it,” Indya said on Instagram.
‘Star’ actress Amiyah Scott shared a few words with us about this epidemic as well. “The continued murder of black trans women is a crisis; an epidemic destroying families and taking innocent lives. It’s time to step up and take action. We need support and safe spaces,” she said. “It’s time to have conversations about the dangers of transphobia [and homophobia], especially in the black community. Discrimination can stand in the way of education, housing and job opportunities, pushing many transgender people into homelessness and dangerous alternative surviving methods. Trans rights ARE human rights and now is the time to come together and take a stand.”
Hopefully in the future it will not require celebrities and high-profile people to speak out in order for the crimes against trans women to be addressed. Black trans women deserve protection, love, and respect. The prejudice against them is rooted in fear and ignorance and it is literally killing them.
Editor’s note: this article has been updated with a quote from Amiyah Scott.