My Blackness Doesn’t Diminish Based On My Trans* Identity

Written by: Derek Baugh, TGNC CAP NMAC

Foreword: Carmarion D. Anderson, TGNC CAP NMAC

In light of the most recent killings of unarmed Black people, I have found myself in the midst of a sea of emotions. These emotions have ranged from anger and fury to fear and hopelessness. In the wake of the murders of both George Floyd & Breonna Taylor, the Black Trans community has rallied alongside our cisgender/heterosexual counterparts in several ways. Whether it is Black Trans people organizing protests, providing resources to protesters, or physically putting their bodies on the front line for a community, Black Trans identified individuals are fighting at the forefront of a movement from which we feel separated and treated as outcasts.

For years, Trans individuals have attended Trans Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) ceremonies, World AIDS Day activities, and various other community events. We have found ourselves in those spaces searching for those who call themselves our allies. In those solemn moments when we speak the names of our siblings, and now ancestors, which primarily consist of Black Trans women who die at the hands of cisgender men who are not unlike those they stand alongside when tragedies like this occur, and we wonder where our allies are. Where are the people who come and steal our culture and harness the talent from our community? Where are the people who throw around ballroom lingo but have no idea where it originated? Where are the people who see no issue with asking us personal questions or treating us like their own Trans glossaries? Where are our allies? Where is this fury and outrage when one of our Black Trans lives is senselessly stolen? Many of us are left angry and shouting that our Black Lives Matter Too, and yes, you would think this should be common knowledge. The exclusion of Black Trans individuals from this movement brings to mind a phrase, “I too am America”-Langston Hughes. We, too, are Black, and our lives matter.

When a sibling-like Nina Pop or Tony McDade is killed, it is painful for us, the Trans community-at-large.  It is doubly offensive when we are hushed and treated as shameful, confused, or embarrassing because of our gender identities by our cisgender counterparts. We are told or commanded to “be quiet” and “wait our turn” as if somehow these stolen Black lives are not as devastating or worth being upset about. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” The silence from those we march alongside is piercing, deafening, and painful. When our Black Trans sisters are killed, dangerous and false narratives suggest they have “tricked” someone.  Perhaps, if they had disclosed their gender identity earlier, their murder could have been prevented is the story that is perpetuated. Black Trans people are literally being told,” yeah, you can stay, just don’t be too loud.”

We ask those who are recipients of the rights, earned with the blood, sweat, and suffering of Black trans people to be true and intentional allies. Black trans people are educated, gifted, and talented, and by hiring this community allies will help create a path to leadership. Give up your seat at the proverbial table for a Black trans person. Don’t perpetuate false narratives. Have hard conversations. Call people out on their problematic statements. Do your own research. Compensate Black Trans people justly for their stories. My blackness doesn’t diminish based on my trans* identity; it diminishes when it is ignored!