Stop Erasing Trans Lives

LGBT media has been buzzing lately with the arrival of a trailer for the new movie “Stonewall,” a fictional cinematic account of the riots at the Stonewall Inn that launched the modern-day LGBTQ movement. What has received less media attention, shamefully, is the fact that the film – directed by a white, cisgender, gay man – is centered on a fictional white, cisgender, gay male character instead of the transgender and gender variant people of color who actually incited the Stonewall riots.

Tamara Dominguez

Tamara Dominguez

This omission felt very striking to me as I also read news of the death of Tamara Dominguez, a Latina trans woman who was violently mugged and murdered in a parking lot on August 18th. Tamara was the sixteenth transgender woman of color to be killed in the United States this year, and the fourth in the past week. This is chilling. If we white LGBT activists are so quick to erase our transgender elders, especially women of color, from our past, is it any surprise that young trans women are being erased from our present?

I am thrilled that the Black Lives Matter movement has garnered much-needed national attention for the Black men, women, and children who are being killed by law enforcement in this country. The efforts of #BlackLivesMatter have started a mainstream discussion about police brutality; their actions have even gotten racial justice onto the agendas of 2016 presidential candidates. But Black transgender women are particular targets of violence at the hands of police and other perpetrators, simply because of who they are, how they look, and/or how they identify. This is an epidemic of transphobic violence that largely goes unnoticed. And it is crushing.

I am struck by the fact that all of the women who were murdered in the month of August – Tamara Dominguez, Kandis Capri, Amber Monroe, Ashton O’Hara – were in their 20s or 30s. These women are barely into adulthood. They will never get to live in LGBT-friendly senior housing and find community with their Black and Latina elder trans sisters, like Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, who spoke so eloquently in the article above about her role in Stonewall. I’ll never get to do my job as an advocate for aging issues on their behalf. They’ll never get to celebrate their triumph over a transphobic, hateful world.

Trans Lives Matter artwork by Micah Bazant

Trans Lives Matter artwork by Micah Bazant

So what can we do to stem the tide of violence that is claiming the lives of Black and Latina transgender women at alarming rates? Trans Murder Monitoring reports that over 1700 trans and gender variant people have been killed worldwide since 2008 – and those are only the deaths that have been reported. Those of us in the LGBTQ communities should be outraged by that number, and we should be focused on supporting, protecting, and advocating for the T that is so often neglected in LGBT.

There is a petition being circulated on We The People to encourage the Obama Administration to investigate the epidemic of transphobic violence in this country. It needs 100,000 signatures before September 9th in order to be submitted to the White House. Won’t you add your name to the list? And will you take five minutes this week to ask your favorite LGBTQ organization, or the racial justice organization you support, or your local legislators – or all of the above – to raise their voices on behalf of the trans women of color we’re losing at an alarming rate?

#BlackLivesMatter. #TransLivesMatter. #SayHerName.

I’m looking forward to a day when our communities are no longer tragic hashtags.

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.