Penny Proud, 21, became the fifth Black transgender woman murdered in the U.S. earlier this year, sparking outrage. People took to social media to express their frustration using popular hashtags like #BlackTransLivesMatter and #MakePennyProud.
Proud was found dead Tuesday, Feb. 10 in New Orleans with multiple gunshot wounds, receiving little mainstream attention.
“If you know a trans woman of color, lift her up and hold her close. We are being murdered in the streets simply for breathing,” Lourdes Ashley Hunter, 39, national director of Trans Women of Color Collective, tweeted.
According to advocates, Black Lives Matter and coverage around it shouldn’t only focus on the victimization of Black men by police; it should be supportive of Black trans lives. Hunter said Black trans women and Black Lives Matter are working together in leading Black liberation.
“I think the biggest challenge is making this movement intersectional; looking at the various forms of oppression that play into Blackness,” said Arielle Newton, 23, the editor-in-chief and founder of Blackmillennials.com.
“Black Lives Matter must mean just that, all Black lives, not just [heterosexual] Black men,” said Zellie Imani, 30, activist and blogger of Black-culture.com.
Newton and Imani are cisgender advocates (meaning they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth). They are part of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“I think there’s a lot of relationships that need to be built,” Newton said. “As a cisgender woman I will never understand what it means to be trans.”
“I actively research for myself and read for myself,” she added. “So I can be better educated and better prepared to be a better ally for my trans brothers and sisters.”
She said she knows “plenty of cisgender people who are like ‘this is a movement for Black liberation.’ Black and Brown trans people of color definitely have a right and place in it.”
Imani blamed transphobia, misgendering, dehumanization and calling Black trans women “it” as major reasons for the lack of value for their lives.
“When a trans woman gets killed, instead of treating her as a victim and wanting to serve the murder of her crime and punish the person who killed her, it’s always about what did she do to get killed?” said Imani.
Ashley Love, 35, journalist and coordinator of Black Trans Women’s Lives Matter, said all Black lives matter, but Black leaders condone transphobic gender segregation, inciting physical violence. She said laws and attitudes that treat trans women as second-class women and subhuman need to be changed.
“Black elected officials and public figures are quick to speak out against White male on Black male violence, yet generally hold their tongues when Black men continuously murder Black women of transsexual history,” said Love, who is a transsexual and intersex advocate.
She asked for support of Black trans women back in a September 2014 press release. “Are the murders of our trans sisters less worthy of tears, of outrage – their humanity less than?”
“All too often the media ignores or belittles the epidemic of violence against Black women in the United States, even more so when the victims are women of transsexual or transgender experience,” Love added.
According to the Anti-Violence Project, Lamia Beard was found shot to death on Jan. 17 in Norfolk, Va.; Ty Underwood was found shot to death on Jan. 26 in Texas; and Michelle (Yazmin) Vash Payne was stabbed to death in Los Angeles on Jan. 31.
Local news station WHAS 11 reported that 20-year-old Sherman Edwards was found shot to death on Jan. 9 in Louisville, Ky.; Hunter nicknamed her Goddess. Hunter claimed the media misgendered her, speaking in terms of the name she was born with and gender she was assigned, instead of the woman she was when she was killed. Besides WHAS 11, Edwards received little coverage.
Patrisse Cullors, 31, co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, said the movement is already more supportive of all Black lives, but news coverage focuses on Black male lives.
“I do think that the media covers what they want to cover. [With] the media, the issue of Black men dying is still more important than the issues of Black women and Black trans women.”
“We have been working with TWOCC,” said Cullors. “They have been really critical in the conversation around Black trans women and developing a broader narrative that doesn’t just talk about cis Black people.”
Hunter clarified Black trans women are leading social justice movements in collaboration with cis Black leaders against structural oppression.
“It is critical to note that trans women of color have been the catalysts of social justice movements,” said Hunter. “TWOCC leads a transformative movement that goes beyond inclusion to elevating opportunities of collaboration and collective liberation.”
Updates were made to this piece — removing language of inclusion as Black trans women and the Black Lives Matter Movement are working together. Follow BLK Social Journalist (#BLKSocialJ) on Twitter, @DeronDalton.