Transgender women of color are finally making a (positive) splash in the mainstream media. Janet Mock, a writer, has been getting accolades for her new memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More; Laverne Cox, an actress in Orange is the New Black, was recently on the cover of Time magazine; and CeCe McDonald is increasingly being recognized as a trans activist leader.
On June 5, 2011 in Minneapolis, CeCe McDonald and her friends were passing a bar on the way to a grocery store when they were accosted with homophobic, transphobic, and racist slurs. CeCe defended herself with a pair of fabric scissors in her bag. She was accused of murder even though she acted in self-defense, jailed for defending herself against bigotry and violence that transgender people often face. The judge rejected considerations of how gender, sexual orientation, race, and class played into the situation; statistics that trans people are more at risk for hate violence; the swastika tattoo on the attacker’s chest and his three previous convictions for assault; as well as the meth, cocaine, and alcohol present in the attacker’s system.
In this Democracy Now! clip from February 19, 2014, CeCe (after her release from prison) and Laverne talk about why black trans bodies matter. It is a must watch for anyone who cares about human beings and wants to better understand what is at stake in the movement for trans liberation. As a cisgender (in other words, non-trans) queer white woman, I am inspired and humbled by these two fierce trans women’s words.
“I know what is like to always have this guard up because you don’t know when somebody will literally try to kill you for just being who you want to be…. I’ve yet to hear of a trans woman who has just lived her life happily….” CeCe McDonald
Why do we insist that there are ok expressions and not ok expressions of masculinity and femininity?
When will we stop policing people’s gender expressions?
When will we start allowing ourselves to see people who challenge mainstream notions of gender not as freaks who are offensive or dangerous, but as beautiful people with unique gender wisdom?
Many trans people are warriors on the front lines, fighting for liberation from restrictive and false gender norms. When will we wake up and see that this fight is one that all of us, people of all gender identities, will benefit from?
Laverne calls us to the future we can all be a part of creating if we choose to:
“How do we create spaces in our culture where we don’t stigmatize trans identity, where we create spaces of gender self-determination? It is so often acceptable to make fun of trans people, to ridicule trans people. When we look at the epidemic of violence against trans people so many people think that our identities are inherently deceptive, inherently suspect, and that we should be criminalized because of that. In Arizona they were trying to criminalize going to the bathroom last year. How do we begin to create spaces where we accept trans people on trans people’s own terms and let trans people lead the discussions of who we are and what the discussion about what our lives should be?” Laverne Cox
Keep an eye out for the release of the documentary, FREE CeCe, to learn more about CeCe’s story and the culture of violence experienced by trans women of color.