Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Black Trans Lives (Also) Matter

Isabella Grullón Paz and Maggie Astor unpack a lot in the piece "Black Trans Women Seek More Space in the Movement They Helped Start" in The New York Times over the weekend, which points out that transgender women of color were leaders in LGBTQ activism before, during and after the uprising at the Stonewall Inn 51 years ago, but were never put at the center of the movement they helped start.

Indeed, it's well past time black trans people shared fully in the gains of the LGBTQ movement. Yet I wonder if I'm the only one seeing the inherent -- and perhaps unintentionally undermining -- flaw of lumping the cause under the #BlackLivesMatter rubric.

Cops killing black people is an entirely different thing than trans people being murdered by fellow citizens, which is the scenario in the vast majority of those cases. One is state-sanctioned racially-motivated abuse of power while the other is general criminality. (The difference is at the heart of #BlackLivesMatter.) So I don’t see the intersectionality of the two without opening the door to the idiotic and illogical "what about black-on-black crime?" argument, when everyday crimes occur by all sorts of civilians against other civilians.

In some if not most cases the trans murders may be motivated by LGBT hate. But in those situations that are properly handled, they are already being addressed for their particular heinousness, at least in states that bother to care about LGBT people, with hate-crimes laws. (These aren't LGB hate-crime laws.) Pushing for inclusive hate-crime laws in the remaining states would be a start on that front.

By all measures, it seems black trans lives are not "mattering" as they rightfully should because of ongoing societal injustices against black people in general (housing, employment, wages, benefits, access to health care and even the overall bad relationship with law enforcement) as well as LGBT discrimination -- not homicidal police brutality.

Words and messages matter. It seems odd to try to co-op or "riff" off an important movement, one that half the country don't quite understand to begin with. It may sound good. But is conflating worth it for a catchy slogan? Or am I giving people who don't get any of this too much credit?

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