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Black Transgender Lives Matter

I don’t want to become another statistic because someone thinks that they have the right to treat me however they see fit – whether that’s because I’m transgender or because I’m a woman.

by Asterisk Ravensbourne

In 2019 it was revealed that the United Kingdom ranked 4th as the safest country in the world for queer people. As a black transgender woman living in London I feel safe for the most part, even if the UK has its share of problems plaguing the transgender community. However, it’s because I’m a black transgender woman that I am conscious of my welfare whenever I go out. Especially when I go into deeper parts of the city such as central London. In recent years transgender deaths have reached incredibly high numbers with no end in sight.

In 2019 the Transgender Murder Monitoring research project revealed that between October 1st 2018 and September 30th 2019, 331 transgender and gender non-conforming people had been murdered due to discrimination. 30 of these deaths occurred in the United States. However, we’re just over halfway through 2020 and approximately 25 trans people have been reported dead in the US, with many of these deaths happening days apart from each other. On July 29th, 2 black transgender people were murdered with 48 hours of each other.

I consider myself fortunate. As a whole I “pass” as a female due to a feminine face and vocal training, but I have endured my own instances of overhearing people ask “Is that a boy or a girl” when walking down the street. I even recently found myself around a man who frequently misgendered me and made several gestures and comments. I later came to realize that this was my first experience of sexual harassment.

I have read so many instances where transgender women have been harassed or even killed because of their gender. I noticed since coming out as transgender and living full-time as female my level of caution when meeting new people or going to new places has increased exponentially. It’s not a question of wanting to project my “passing” as a woman, but my wanting to protect myself. I don’t want to become another statistic because someone thinks that they have the right to treat me however they see fit – whether that’s because I’m transgender or because I’m a woman.

A disproportionate number of transgender deaths are people of colour. Black transgender women are more likely to be murdered than other transgender people because of hate, discrimination and bigotry. At the time of writing there is a significant movement flooding the world. The Black Lives Matter movement demonstrates to the world that injustice towards black people shouldn’t be ignored. Individuals and even large companies have shown support for Black Lives Matter. A spin-off of this movement, Black Trans Lives Matter, has been making waves throughout communities, but this movement doesn’t have the same force regardless of the support from allies.

One problem is that whilst there is a significant number of black people on this planet, black transgender people make up small population. We don’t always have the support of our community. I have seen and heard instances where black transgender people have been harassed or assaulted by their black peers. The hypocrisy is clear. I can only ask where is the solidarity here? Don’t black lives matter if that life is transgender? The way I see it, we shouldn’t need our own hashtag. Black Lives Matter should already be inclusive of transgender people, it should be inclusive of all people.

The issues that enable such behaviour are multi-faceted. However, it is clear that the root of it all is within the governments around the world who continuously implement policies that negatively affect the LGBTQ community, with a recent focus on the transgender community in particular. June is Pride month. However, it was this month in 2020 that the UK government were talking about abandoning plans to making it easier to change gender on one’s birth certificate. They abandoned plans to make it an easier and less dehumanizing process, while simultaneously planning to make it more difficult for us to use facilities suited to the gender that we identify with.

In the same month the US rolled back healthcare rights for transgender people, allowing doctors to discriminate against patients just for being transgender. Meanwhile, Hungary has made it illegal to change one’s gender on your birth certificate. Romania is considering making it against the law to teach about LGBTQ issues in schools. These sorts of roll backs go against our right to live our lives as human beings. If our own governments don’t treat us as humans, how can we expect the rest of society to?

Unless the world makes a conscious decision to change and listens to the voices of those being affected, then the number of transgender deaths worldwide will only grow larger every year. 

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