Transgender Awareness Week: #SayHerName

Transgender Awareness Week: #SayHerName

Eric Garner. #SayHisName. Freddie Gray. #SayHisName. Alton Sterling #SayHisName. Philando Castile #SayHisName. Kandis Capri, Amber Monroe, Shade Schuler, India Clarke, London Chanel, Keyshia Blige, Yazmine Vash Payne, Ty Underwood, Lamia Beard, Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, Ashton O’Hara, Jasmine Collins, Elisha Walker, Keisha Jenkins, Zella Ziona. #SayHerName–wait– #SayWhat?

Last year was the deadliest on record for the trans community. In 2015, 21 transgender women were murdered in the U.S., almost all of them black and Latin. While national conversations about black lives taken at the hands of police highlight opportunities to increase awareness of and the work required to change the devaluation of human lives, these conversations ignore black trans lives lost. Dee Dee Dodd, a black trans woman, was shot and killed in D.C. this summer around the same time as Castile and Sterling. Have you heard her name?

Trans women of color are more at risk in other ways too, including being twice as likely to be HIV-positive as other trans women. They are more likely to be denied housing and employment and are often forced to survive in the most dangerous ways–which includes taking unhealthy sexual risks. Poor black and brown LGBTQ youth face higher suspensions, expulsions, and dropout rates than other students. Trans students of color are criminalized even more aggressively and treated even more harshly than their black heterosexual and non-transgender peers. Black trans youth facing discrimination in their homes and communities suffer high rates of depression, abuse, and health problems.

In the words of civil rights shero Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” As an Afro-Latina and mixed-race transgender queer teen, my intersectional identity should center me in the middle of movements celebrating black lives. Yet, when no one knows the names of my trans sisters of color who have been murdered, and I face hate within my own communities, I struggle with being rendered invisible while in constant danger.

White House Summit for African American LGBTQ Youth

I attended the White House Summit for African American LGBTQ Youth in June. At the summit, we discussed how our intersections of blackness, queerness, and transness marginalize us. We talked about how to empower ourselves and ways to change how the world sees us. We talked about the need for support, acceptance, and love. Ultimately we discussed strategies to ensure liberation.

Too many members of our beloved community are being killed. We must stand and fight together–because ALL Black Lives Matter. Stay in the streets, but lock arms with our trans sisters and brothers. Because black trans lives are black lives and black trans lives matter. They don’t matter only in the margins. They matter in the center. Because nobody’s free until everybody’s free.

Grace Dolan-Sandrino is a 15-year-old high school junior, a Peer Educator at SMYAL (Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League), a participant in the White House Summit for African American LGBTQ Youth, and a transgender teen activist.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual observance on Nov. 20 that honors the memory of those whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. During the week of November 14–20, individuals and organizations around the country participate in Transgender Awareness Week to help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people and address the issues these communities face.