“It made me feel very unsafe because I didn’t know what people were willing to do in that space,” Hearns, a transgender woman, told The Root, specifically pointing out that most of the violent remarks were coming from black men. “There was this macho bravado of cockiness in that space where they were allowed to say and do whatever, when the focus for me was utilizing my voice to stand up for something I believed in, which was honoring Trayvon.”
Nearly three years after Trayvon Martin’s death, there has been no slowdown of black men and women dying as a result of police brutality and other forms of anti-black violence. The responses to these killings have culminated in a wide range of movements around the country, with Black Lives Matter being among the most well-known. But some transgender women, like Hearns, feel that some of those involved in the movement don’t consider anti-black struggles like theirs.
Lourdes Ashley Hunter, who serves as executive director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, told The Root that a chasm exists between many cis black people (“cis” meaning those who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) and transgender black women who have felt that their unique challenges regarding anti-black violence have gone largely ignored.
“I think the black community needs to acknowledge the fact that they are being completely silent about the murders that have been happening in our community,” Hunter said. “Just last year, 12 trans women of color were murdered with no response from the black community. When folks scream, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they’re not talking about black trans women. Most of the time, they’re not even talking about [cis] black women.”
Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, told The Root that the organization has been very clear that its efforts to defend African Americans against anti-black violence uplifts every black person, including transgender women—though she says there is room for improvement.
“I think a better job that the Black Lives Matter movement could do is actually uplifting the narratives of black trans women,” she said. “The way you uplift narratives is by bringing everybody to the leadership table so that black trans women are making decisions on what statements are going out about strategy and tactics, and are being paid for their hard work and labor and that black trans women are in every single piece of the conversation.”