Trans Awareness Month may be coming to close, but advocacy surrounding awareness is something we should champion in perpetuity, especially when it comes to Black trans women who fight a daily battle. At least 22 transgender and gender-nonconforming people were murdered in 2019 according to a recent report by the Human Rights Campaign. And of that 22, 91 percent were Black trans women.
To say that Black trans women are under attack is an understatement, and to call the issue something new is a false narrative.
Still, despite the attacks and tragedy, Black trans women have managed to put their stamp on the world. When we think about this special brand of Black girl magic, we tend to think of women like Angelica Ross, Laverne Cox, and Marsha P. Johnson, who have shown that there is no limit or stopping Black women.
Here are a few Black trans women and organizations you should keep on your radar.
When Monica Roberts found that news outlets and mainstream publications were regularly misgendering transgender women, she did what most Black women do. She fixed it herself. Not only is she the founding editor of Transgriot but a transgender rights advocate. Through her work, she tracks trans murder victims and uses her journalism skills to look for signs of overlooked trans women in news reports. Some outlets would describe victims as a “man in women’s clothing.” Monica would then do the required research and write about victims by honoring how they identified. She told CNN, “Frankly, I got tired of Black trans women being disrespected by the media.” Her blog has become one of the strongest sources for trans awareness that even other outlets look to as a guide. Monica creates a space for Black trans women and their stories.
Houston Native, Diamond Stylz is not only a lifestyle influencer, but a trans activist through her video blog content. Her work reaches more than 2.3 million viewers. Through her outlet, she tackles the experience of what it means to be transgender in America. It’s safe to say Diamond has been an activist she was a teenager. She fought against her Indianapolis Public School District so she could wear a dress to her high school prom. After she won, she went on to become the first openly trans woman to be accepted into a historically black college, Jackson State University. And Diamond hasn’t slowed down since. She also co-hosts a podcast called “Marsha’s Plate,” which addresses transgender social justice issues.
The Knights and Orchids Society Inc. is a grassroots LGBTQIA group led by Black, queer, transgender advocates, in the south. Of the trans women killed this year, 68 percent of them lived in the south and although discrimination is global, TKO recognizes the vital need for it in rural areas like Alabama and throughout the deep south. They not only provide a safe space of trans and queer people, but they offer HIV testing and basic support based on their needs. It’s a safe house and community of empowerment and guidance for queer individuals in the south who don’t always have safe access.
Toni Michelle Williams is the co-director of Solutions Not Punishment Coalition (SNAPCO), a program that works to help trans and gender nonconforming people of color targeted by the Atlanta Police Department. She is an advocate for prison reform, and fights against for the decriminalization of poverty. In addition to being an activist, Toni is also a scholar. She is known for her breakdown of Black transgender feminism and was integral to “The Most Dangerous Thing Out Here Is The Police” report which shined light on the trans gender community’s experience with Atlanta police. This report led many lawmakers to push for social change.
Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL) is a D.C. based organization dedicated to helping local queer youth. The organization was started after local youth service professionals and community activists learned that LGBTQIA youth were being attacked. This program offers after school programs and counseling services specifically for queer youth. They strive to teach young people to advocate for themselves and provide trainings for youth service providers who work in schools, runaway shelters, and hospitals. They are there for these children before they are forced to take on the world as adults.
Transgender awareness requires more than a month’s or week’s worth effort. Black trans women need love, protection, and support year-round.