Weeks before the current cycle of mid-term elections decide the direction of our nation, people of prejudice have flooded Black, brown, and low-income white and Asian communities with lies about transgender children - kids who are being harmed by lawmakers across the country who believe that targeting transgender people will help them maintain political power.
Voters have a chance to prove these politicians wrong this Tuesday and show unprecedented support for children who did not ask to be born and deserve opportunities to thrive.
One hundred fifty-five anti-trans bills have been introduced this year. Bills aimed at preventing trans students from participating in sports, restricting gender-affirming care, and barring trans people from using the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender have advanced in more than 42 states across the country. The Williams Institute found that more than a third of the 150,000 trans youth aged 13-17 lived in 15 states that have restricted access to gender-affirming care or are currently considering laws that would do so. Some states have gone further, attempting to direct child welfare agents to investigate parents and guardians who provide gender-affirming medical care as child abuse and creating guidelines making it harder for trans youth to change their names or have their pronouns respected at school.
While politicians promulgate false narratives with no evidence, there is evidence about how these efforts have negatively impacted transgender children. According to The Trevor Project, 85% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported that the recent debates around state laws restricting the rights of trans people negatively impacted their mental health.
Additionally, conversations about and efforts to advance anti-LGBTQ+ legislation can fuel violence against the community. Trans panic defense laws provide cover to those who hurt and harm trans people. This year thirty-two transgender, gender non-conforming, or nonbinary people have been killed that we know of. Eighteen (56%) of the victims identify as Black trans women. Tenty-six (81%) of the victims were under thirty-five.
The National Black Justice Coalition works to prevent and respond to fatalistic violence impacting the Black trans, femme, and non-binary/non-conforming members of our community. first time in recent years that there has been a decrease in the number of trans lives strolen. The aforementioned decrease in stolen lives may be a result of actions that we encourage, including: prosecuting hate crimes; transgender cultural competency training; the United Nations Commission in Human Rights doing; and heightened visibility of Black transgender entertainers excelling at their craft - a reminder of the fact that they’re always been here (and when supported, both show up and out). While progress has been made, there is still work to ensure no one loses their life for living as they were purposed to.
Black people are tethered together by our linked fate. Fannie Lou Hamer taught us that not one among us is free unless and until all of us are free, and this includes the most vulnerable members of our beautifully diverse community.
November 13th to 19th is Transgender Awareness Week, ending in Transgender Day of Resilience and Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20th. These awareness events present opportunities for Black people to increase their competence and compassion so that our trans and non-binary/non-conforming siblings feel and are safer and supported in the ways each of us desires for ourselves and those we know and love.
As we remember the trans lives stolen from us, it’s also important to celebrate the resilience of those who thrive despite ignorance, bias, stigma, and discrimination—all siblings of white supremacy.
Too often, public acknowledgment of trans experience is restricted to pain and trauma, which is one of the reasons why NBJC presented Flowers. Led by Sage-Dolan Sandrino, NBJC’s Monica Roberts Fellow, Flowers is a media project that celebrates the lives, legacy, and existence of Black trans women and femmes. We hope that the community considers Flowers a resource—a way to increase competence and support the demonstration of compassion.
Visit nbjc.org to view the stories of the Black trans women featured in Flowers. Share the content across your platforms in recognition of Transgender Awareness Week.
Voting is one of the most meaningful ways to ensure Black trans lives are valued and protected. Don’t be manipulated by politicians’ peddling white supremacy by seeking to stigmatize trans people as a common enemy. Who you vote for matters—at every level of government. Vote by mail, early, or on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8th - Be safe and have a plan. Consider NBJC’s voter hub a resource.
Dr. David J. Johns is the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+, and same-gender loving (LGBTQ+/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.