Arts & Culture

This Pride Month, Let’s Celebrate Trans Women of Color

By Brian Oaster

It’s Pride Month! Chicago has painted its crosswalks in rainbow. The world’s biggest Pride marches will be glitterbombing the streets of Sao Paulo, New York, Madrid, San Francisco, and Houston (you read that right!). And Donald Trump is feigning performative allyship, even as he pushes legislation that will kill LGBTQ people.

This Pride Month is special, because it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. On June 28th, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. Public backlash from the raid sparked the gay rights movement, which continues today and celebrates each June as a month of visibility, empowerment, and the freedom to be unashamed.

Plans for a New Stonewall Monument to Honor Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Two trans women of color who were involved in the so-called riots, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, will be immortalized with a monument in Greenwich Village near the original site of the Stonewall. The New York Times says the monument will be “one of the world’s first for transgender people.” They plan to spend $750,000, and are still looking for an artist. So if you’re a trans sculptor of color, this could be the sign you’ve been looking for.

“The LGBTQ movement was [previously] portrayed very much as a white, gay male movement,” notes Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York. “This monument counters that trend of whitewashing the history.”

Black Trans Women Suffer More Violence and Marginalization

Pride has always been about visibility. But even in the pride movement some have been more visible than others. And those with less visibility are more vulnerable. Black trans women are among the most marginalized and vulnerable people in America today.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people, especially transgender women, are socially marginalized and prone to experiences of stigmatization and discrimination in multiple arenas of life,” adding that “African-American transgender people fare worse than all racial/ethnic group in many domains of life.”

The Human Rights Campaign reports at least 26 murders of trans people in the US in 2018, most of whom were Black trans women. Of the seven murders of trans people reported so far this year, all have been of Black trans women.

Despite the violence against them, and the experience of far higher rates of unemployment, homelessness, extreme poverty, and HIV, Black TGNC people have continually exhibited excellence in leadership that’s long overdue for widespread recognition and support.

Support Black Trans Women With Positive Praxis

This Pride Month, we can go the extra mile by supporting Black trans women. And no, sorry, that doesn’t mean smiling extra hard and telling them how beautiful you think they are. Instead of approaching allyship in a performative way, put it into praxis.

Give a Black trans woman a job, a meal, some money, a platform, lots of money, a boost on social media, a tip, a place to stay, a huge tip. Put yourself in harms way if you see impending violence against a Black trans woman. Speak up if you see one of your peers mistreating a Black trans woman. Get in the faces of your legislators and demand justice for the Black trans women they won’t listen to.

Give them shelter. They are the future. Their efforts, like those of Martha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, built the past. They are the pride of Pride. “Every breath a Black trans woman takes,” says Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Executive Director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, “is an act of revolution.”

Brian Oaster

Brian is a Choctaw writer in the Pacific Northwest.