If you’ve been paying attention, it comes as no surprise that Black trans women are not safe. According to GLAAD, the average life expectancy for this demographic is between 30-35 years old, while the average cisgender person can expect to live to 78.
The Human Rights Campaign reports that 44 trans and gender non-conforming people were killed in 2020, the highest number since the organization began tracking this statistic in 2013. A majority of the victims were Black and Latinx and were killed by acquaintances, partners or strangers.
Despite these alarming statistics, we don’t spend enough time speaking about the very real risks Black trans women face just being themselves, attempting to live their day to day lives.
Recently, continuing her ongoing discussion of mental health in the Black community, Taraji P. Henson spoke with three trans women on her Facebook Watch show, Peace of Mind.
There, the women spoke about depression, suicide and murder within the community.
Check out highlights from the conversation below.
Naki, 33: I’ve been attacked on a bus. And it always comes when they want to talk to you. You could be minding your business and that’s what I was doing, minding my business. It happened in my early twenties. He tried to talk to me and I ignored him and I turned my back and I just wasn’t thinking about it. And when I got off the bus, he hit me in the side of my face. All because you wanted to talk to me and you found out who I was. That marked me. And it caused a fear of any public transportation.
How transitioning affected their mental health
Nova, 32: It was a pendulum for me. I was happy and I felt really good—it’s this moment in your life where you’re happy and really joyful—it’s almost euphoric when you take your first hormone pill. You’re like, ‘I feel the estrogen.’ Even though you probably don’t. And this moment that is supposed to be so happy is also taken away from you because you have so many people coming down on you. It just sucks. I lived majority of my life as a gay man, until I was 27. For years, I walked around just confused and drifting, trying to figure out who I was. I was going to the clubs, which did start a drinking problem but if I hadn’t been that community been able to meet those people, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here as Nova today. I didn’t ever want to be alone. I didn’t want to be at home and sit in my thoughts because that’s when things get really bad. I would get off work, change my clothes and go to happy hour. Then I was there until the club closed and I would go home and pass out and go to work the next day. But starting my transition literally changed my life. I could not be happier even though we deal with so much stuff on a daily basis.
Memphis, 20: I transitioned while I was still in high school. And that for me was just hard, getting everyone in your school that you’re not the boy Memphis, you’re the girl Memphis and getting everyone to respect who you are, not a lot of people could do that. When people started judging me and I felt like I didn’t fit in, that’s when the depression started. I had attempted suicide and I had to go to the mental hospital. And I guess what triggered me more was feeling like no one would understand because it was way less accepted.
I still have people misgender me which is triggering. I think that is one of the biggest offenses if you don’t know, you should ask. There’s nothing wrong with asking or just don’t say anything.
Nova: It’s exhausting. I do most of my dating on apps just because it’s easier for me. Two years ago, it wasn’t that easy. When I started transitioning, I was using Tinder and they didn’t even have the option to put trans woman on there. So it was just male or female. I have to put just female. Then you get all these guys messaging you and you have to have that awkward conversation, ‘Oh, I’m trans.’
There’s a lot of anxiety because you never know how they’re going to react. I get those guys that are like so angry. ‘Oh, you’re trying to fool us! You’re a dude.’ They say so many evil things. So I only use dating platforms that allow me to put my trans identity in the profile so that you can read it before you get in my DMs. And sometimes guys don’t even read. They’re like, ‘Hey girl!’ And I’m like, ‘Did you read my profile?’ If they’re like, ‘No.’ I’m like, ‘Well, scoot on back.’
I don’t even want to deal with the mess.
Naki: Before I met [my boyfriend], I had a bad experience. I met a guy and we were talking. We were talking for like two hours and I was like, ‘This is my husband!’ So he gave me his number. And I said this is the wrong number, three times. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ And he said, ‘I was lying to you. I was never into you. I should have met with you so I can kill you.’ I hurried up and deleted the app and I was shook for five years. What if I would have met with him? I remember these moments like they were yesterday. What if I would have really—because I was pressed for love back then, I was desperate. I just wanted a man. He talked a good game. He deserved an Emmy, Oscar, every award that you could get because he really sold himself.
You can watch the full conversation in the video below.