“If you want an Oscar, they give those for supporting roles.”

#blacklivesmatter, ableism, accessible movements, allyship, disability justice, healing justice, intersectionality, racism, saneism, solidarity, transphobia, white supremacy

TRIGGER WARNING: ableism, racism, white entitlement, transphobia

OK, so YOU ALL.

I have had a radical shift in thinking. A radical shift that is also a continuation of the path I’ve been wandering, a fitting in of a puzzle piece that was waiting to be placed there. (I recently had the honor of hearing the founders of the #blacklivesmatter movement, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, speak. They were SO amazing!)

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Cullors, Garza, and Tometi. Source: http://www.blackalliance.org/the-new-leaders-of-social-justice/

Yes, I live at a particular intersection of trans and disabled.

But SO DOES, LIKE ALMOST EVERY TRANS PERSON. Trans people and disabled people are not separate. We are nearly THE SAME THING. Trans people are inherently traumatized by the world around us. It almost always gives us chronic illnesses. Even if we have no other disabilities, we very, very often have these ones.

Trans justice and disability justice are the same thing.

We’ll use some examples from my own life, or fears from my own life, just to illustrate a small amount of the overlap.

Trans disabled lives are lived whenever we can’t “work hard enough” to prove that we’re a “good trans person,” to make a good first impression on all those cis people.

Trans disabled lives are lived every time we are misnamed and mispronounced in the doctor’s office.

Trans disabled lives are lived every time there isn’t a space in the psych ward for our genders.

Trans disabled lives are lived when there isn’t therapy that lets us be who we are, when therapy itself traumatizes us.

Trans disabled lives are lived when we have GI problems and there are no safe bathrooms for us.

Trans disabled lives are lived when the only trans spaces are full of chemicals and fragrances that make them inaccessible for us, and the only disability justice spaces don’t ask for pronouns.

Trans disabled lives are lived when the only trans-friendly psychiatrist in your area won’t see you because they can’t personally separate the workplace discrimination you’re experiencing for being trans… and disabled.

Trans disabled lives are lived when we traumatize and retraumatize each other in the only trans relationships we have.

Our oppression creates our trauma creates our disabilities, living deep in our cells, in our bones, in our guts. Oppression disables us, in so many senses of the word.

We cannot have justice in any movement without disability justice, we cannot have it without healing justice. Each and every one of our oppressed communities has been disabled by our oppression. Often it’s some of the most vulnerable members who have borne this cost.

Oppression is not the only thing that disables us (and some of us are born with disabilities). And not everyone who is oppressed is disabled. But we cannot overlook the huge overlap, even if many aren’t ready to take on the identity “disabled.”

I’ve realized that I’ve been living narrowly in my ideas about what that means. I know all oppressions are interconnected, but I’ve been separating out my solidarity work from the anti-oppression work that directly affects me. On one hand, this is necessary—we can’t appropriate oppression, we have to work from solidarity.

On the other hand, this has created a myopic view of what oppression looks like and what interconnections there are.

The founders of the #blacklivesmatter movement are not just black women who are mostly queer, they are also mostly chronically ill and traumatized.

And they started a nationwide, global movement.

With all that inside their bodies.

I knew intellectually that queer disabled black people existed, and that they struggled. I’ve read some of their writing. But somehow, seeing these women who started such a successful, viral movement right in front of me, hearing their words, their inspiration—well. Our struggles might sometimes look different, but they are different heads of the same beast.

But here’s the thing: I’m not dealing with as many heads of that beast. They are just facing more shit.

I really do need to sit down and shut up, a lot of the time.

OK, I knew that, too, intellectually. But I really need to internalize this.

Because the movement cannot be led by people like me. It will not be led by people like me. I am still a person of privilege, even though I am queer and trans and pan and gray ace and disabled. Even though I am a survivor. So many of us are all of those things–and more.

They are the ones that need to be at the front. My voice can be part of a chorus. It can say my experiences, but it must always be informed by others.

And, as I think it was Patrice Cullors who pointed out (a point that she credited to Lourdes Ashley Hunter), “If you want an Oscar, they give those for supporting roles.” (loosely quoted)

Our place is in supporting roles. That is our non-oppressive place to be. Anything else is reproducing white supremacy, classism, the whole nine yards.

We don’t need that in our movement.

What we do need is more care for each other, more love, more support. What we need is holding each other despite it all.

So I’ll keep on moving and shaking and writing and listening and doing my best to keep my place.

Thank you so much, Patrice, Alicia, and Opal, for your work, your words, and your inspiration.

I am ready to begin again.

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Part 5: Some Groups and Organizations that Center/Include Trans People of Color

#blacklivesmatter, activism, ally, cissexism, non-binary, non-binary people of color, racism, solidarity, transgender, transgender people of color, transphobia, white supremacy

TRIGGER WARNING: racism in queer and trans communities, prison-industrial complex

See this post (“White Silence and Black Deaths”) for an introduction to the many parts of this post. I feel almost embarrassed to be signal boosting these rad organizations on my blog–they already have so much wider of an audience. However, if you are able to monetarily or otherwise support these organizations, or to signal boost for donations (especially during this month that’s often so focused on fundraising)–please do! And, of course, if you don’t know about these folks already, you should check them out!

Audre Lorde Project:

“The Audre Lorde Project is a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming People of Color community organizing center, focusing on the New York City area. Through mobilization, education and capacity-building, we work for community wellness and progressive social and economic justice. Committed to struggling across differences, we seek to responsibly reflect, represent and serve our various communities.”

Black and Pink:

“Black & Pink is an open family of LGBTQ prisoners and “free world” allies who support each other. Our work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex is rooted in the experience of currently and formerly incarcerated people. We are outraged by the specific violence of the prison industrial complex against LGBTQ people, and respond through advocacy, education, direct service, and organizing.” Find an incarcerated LGBTQ pen pal—the waiting list is long!

Black Transmen, Inc.

“Black Transmen Inc.® is the 1st National Non-Profit Organization of African American transmen solely focused on acknowledgment, social advocacy and empowering transmen with resources to aid in a healthy female to male transition. Black Transmen Inc. programs provide all female to male transmen and SLGBTQI individuals with necessary tools to secure identity and equality within our society regardless of race, creed, color, religion, sexual identity or sexual expression.”

Body Image 4 Justice:

“Formed in 2013, BodyImage4Justice (BI4J) aims to bring the LGBTQ community together through the common cause and interest of body image, health and wellness. We focus on empowerment and social justice for the trans community through events, workshops, political action, advocacy, and other activities that further our mission and support the health and well-being of community members. BI4J recognizes the complexity of our community, and the way that multiple identities impact our experience of health, body image, and wellness. We are building collaborative relationships with other LGBTQ organizations to support our mutual goals and improve awareness of and access to health care and health-promoting resources. We work to make the connection between body image and health explicit and visible in our communities.”

Brown Boi Project:

“We work for Gender Justice, which means we are not satisfied with the traditional expectations of masculinity and femininity; they tend to box us in and make embodying femininity negative in our culture. Instead, we are fighting with others to build healthy and affirming ideas around gender. We are talking about our responsibilities and privilege as masculine people, and we are working hard to change the power dynamics in our relationships, families, and communities. We believe that by investing in the lives of feminine-identified people – especially womyn, girls, and trans folks – we will shift the balance of power. We are striving for the day when all brown bois can embody non-oppressive masculinities rooted in honor, community, and empowerment of others.”

Brown Grrlz Project:

“The Brown Grrlz Project brings womyn together regardless to class, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, sexual identification, religion or culture. The Brown Grrlz Project is dedicated to challenging the way that hegemonic society defines and oppresses womyn of color. We do so by creating intentional spaces where we act as authors of our own experience and are valued and recognized, by affirming and sharing science and knowledge. We also provide support for traumatic outcomes of oppression through community building, community based education, creating healing spaces and hosting skill shares. We affirm our value through creating spaces for us to celebrate ourselves and our dedication to building a society beyond exclusion.”

Sylvia Rivera Law Project:

“The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence. SRLP is a collective organization founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice. Therefore, we seek to increase the political voice and visibility of low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. SRLP works to improve access to respectful and affirming social, health, and legal services for our communities. We believe that in order to create meaningful political participation and leadership, we must have access to basic means of survival and safety from violence.”

Trans Justice Funding Project:

“The Trans Justice Funding Project is a community-led funding initiative supporting grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people.”

Trans People of Color Coalition:

“The intersections of race, gender, sexuality and class impact the lives of transpeople of color in complex and unique ways. Our voices have often been ignored, appropriated, marginalized, or silenced. TPOCC seeks to break that cycle and empower our community by building a pipeline of activists and advocates to engage and connect with one another to create a holistic movement of support, resources, and education by and for transpeople of color.”

Queer of Gender: Does My Black Life Matter?

#blacklivesmatter, mtf, trans women, trans women of color, transgender, women of color

TRIGGER WARNING: police violence and murder of black people, transphobia, transmisogyny

This is a powerful piece!

Check out the blog as well–here’s their about page:

“Queer of Gender is a blog dedicated to affirming & acknowledging the various genders & gender expressions within Aboriginal/ First Nation/ Indigenous People & People of Colour communities.

“Based in the Greater Toronto Area (Peel Region), It showcases the plethora of experiences we face as multi-issue folks whose genders do not fit so neatly within the rigid confines of the cishet-patriarchal gender binary.

“The lack of gender diversity in the mainstream looks to erase our gender journeys. Moreover, when gender outside of the “norm” is affirmed by mainstream society, it is white/white-washed, non-disabled, colonized, documented – seemingly “acceptable” representations of what they feel we should be & not who we are.

“Therefore, this site serves as a sacred space for us as two-spirit/2spirit people, queer/ trans* folks, intersex folks, genderbenders, genderfucks, crossdressers and all others whose experiences of gender & race are marginalized.

“Let’s look to celebrate, affirm and archive our own stories, achievements & the intricate, complex ways we see ourselves.

“We Are Queer of Gender & We Exist.

http://queerofgender.com/post/104935865673/does-my-black-life-matter-an-open-letter-to-the

PART 3: Alok Vaid-Menon, Janani Balasubramanian, and Darkmatter

#blacklivesmatter, activism, ally, cissexism, colonization, coming out, imperialism, non-binary, non-binary people of color, racism, solidarity, trans people of color, transgender, transphobia, white supremacy

TRIGGER WARNING: racism in trans and queer communities, eating disorders (specifically anorexia), colonization and imperialism, coming out to unsupportive families, talking about unsupportive families with racist queer people

See this post (“White Silence and Black Deaths”) for an introduction to the many parts of this post. I feel almost embarrassed to be signal boosting these rad people on my blog–they already have so much wider of an audience. But they are wonderful people to learn from. If you don’t know about these folks already, you should check them out!

Alok Vaid-Menon:

“…[A]s queer South Asians we navigate a complicated cultural landscape where we often are not afforded control of our own narratives. Our telling of personal violence often gets swallowed by white supremacy in the service of its racist and imperialist agenda. This is because the cultural logics that help maintain structural racism are stronger than our individual stories.

When my white peers would hear about the queerphobia I experienced from my people it would give power to a larger imperialist narrative that immigrants and people of color are traditional and conservative and therefore need to be educated or saved (read: occupied and exploited). … They would ask me why I was still in contact with them, why I didn’t just cut my connections….

What white queers don’t understand is that the entire mandate of racist assimilation in this country is about us being forced to give up our culture, tradition, and families. Assimilation has always been about us hating ourselves and feeling insecure in our bodies, families, and cultures. White folks do not understand how so many of us are not willing to leave our cultures for our queerness – how so many of us carry more complex identities than just our genders and sexualities….

My experiences returning to South Asian spaces have allowed me to understand the ways in which white queer politics relies on the expression of liberation as an individual and not collective process. The narrative goes that we are supposed to ‘come out’ (read: leave our blood families) and participate in the ‘movement’ (read: public visibility) and join ‘alternative kinships’ (which are necessarily supposed to be more radical and more supportive than our families of origin). Both understandings of ‘queerness’ and ‘activism’ often rely on us leaving our cultural homes in order to participate in the ‘movement.’…

Janani Balasubramanian:

Like most people on this list, they have so much good work. Here’s a sample of a piece from Black Girl Dangerous.

“I remember being hugely troubled by the language many of the speakers and health educators would use about their experiences: that ‘eating disorders were about power and control, not beauty’.  As if this were a dichotomy. As if beauty were something other than a system of control and domination.  There is nothing shallow about beauty; I have drowned in it. My anorexia had everything to do with affluent white womanhood, something not available to me, but that I was systemically surrounded by.  It had everything to do with heterosexuality: an aspiration for ‘proper and dignified’ white womanhood – that is ultimately desirable to white masculinity.

“I’m willing to wager that the majority of eating disorders are experienced by folks with multiple marginalized identities.  It’s likely that a lot of us aren’t able to talk about it because we’ve been denied representations of ourselves, and been denied in society.  It’s also likely that if we came full circle and really stirred up some conversations about this painful experience in our communities, we would find mirrors in each other.  It’s not that I want doctors to start diagnosing us left and right.  Most of the medical industrial complex isn’t competent enough to deal with our bodies.  Rather, I want us, and our communities, to figure out ways to nourish and hold each other, to make space for our truths.  For whatever ways that race, gender, poverty, disability, sexuality, and whatever else make us too complicated for dominant eating disorder narratives.  If for no other reason, than that we don’t need yet another way to mark marginalized bodies for shame and death.

Darkmatter:

Darkmatter is Vaid-Menon and Balasubramanian’s speaking/performing pair. They say: “DARKMATTER is a trans south asian art and activist collaboration comprised of janani and alok. using poetry & polemic, tweet & tirade DM  is committed to an art practice of gender self(ie) determination, racial justice, and movement building. DM has been invited to perform and facilitate workshops across the world.”

Here are some of their rad videos.

Part 2: Monica Roberts, Dr. Kortney Ziegler, and Black Girl Dangerous

#blacklivesmatter, activism, ally, appropriation, cissexism, ftm, mtf, queer people of color, racism, trans people of color, transgender, transphobia, white supremacy

TRIGGER WARNING: racism in the trans community, violence against trans people of color, criminalization of trans people of color, cultural appropriation

See this post (“White Silence and Black Deaths”) for an introduction to the many parts of this post. I feel almost embarrassed to be signal boosting these rad people on my blog–they already have so much wider of an audience. But they are wonderful people to learn from. If you don’t know about these folks already, you should check them out!

Transgriot:

Monica Roberts on racist attacks within the trans community against Janet Mock and Laverne Cox in her article “Why You All So ‘Scurred’ of Black Trans People Owning Their Power?”

“We have been asking for years to be included in trans leadership ranks that look like a Republican Party convention and you keep ignoring or dismissing our concerns and requests to do so.  We are suffering with a 26% unemployment rate in Black Transworld and near genocidal levels of anti-trans violence being aimed at us that needs to be dealt with now, not 5, 10 or 50 years from now.

For the last 61 years the trans narrative has centered on whiteness.  The transfeminine one has like in the parent society, white transwomen being the penultimate in beauty and femininity while Black transwomen are belittled, denigrated and murdered along with our trans Latina sisters.

“…I am Black first, trans second.  If I had any doubts about where I stand in that regard as a member of the trans community, I get a reminder of it every time I call out the bigoted and racist bull feces that occasionally pops up in our trans community ranks and you angrily hiss back I’m ‘angry’ or ‘playing the race card’ for simply for being willing to call your unacknowledged white privileged behinds out.

“…It was past time for Black transpeople to close ranks, lift each other up as white transpeople have done for the last six decades, have those trans conversations in our Black SGL and cis communities, and do the education because we are the people best suited to discuss trans issues in our community.

“…If you fear the rise of the New Black Transwoman and the New Black Transman because of your unacknowledged privilege, have several seats.  You can #bemad and #staymad about it.

“We would rather work together to build community with our white trans brothers and sisters and our cis, bi  and SGL allies to advance our common goal of human rights for all.  

“But we Black transpeople will no longer do so as a disrespected junior partner that you throw under the bus every time our opponents wave an opportunity in front of your noses to get your lost platinum white privilege levels back.
Dr. Kortney Ziegler:

He has his own blog (linked above) and here is an article that was also published on The Advocate. It’s called “The Peculiarity of Black Trans Male Privilege:”

“Although I’m less likely to be sexually assaulted because of the ways in which I present my gender, this privilege is in exchange for becoming a visible target of racist practices designed to police young black manhood. Policies such as “stop and frisk” and the sanctioned citizen killings of young black men like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis have forced me to learn new ways to manage my body to attract the least amount of attention. I am constantly learning new social cues to present myself as less threatening, less aggressive, and less criminal, to challenge the irrational fear of black masculinity that can literally end my life.”

Black Girl Dangerous

This is on Black Girl Dangerous, which posts articles by queer and trans people of color. From a conversation between Mia McKenzie and Janani Balasubramanian…

Mia: “At that moment I sort of realized how much queerness is blackness, and the ways that we express queerness, that’s a Black vernacular.  That’s a way that’s very very connected to Black culture, and the ways that queer culture has just sort of taken as it will from Black culture without a lot of acknowledgement of Black culture, just completely appropriated from it.  And not only without acknowledgement of it, but without even respect for it.  You can have the same person, like a Black woman in the inner city saying something or dressing in a particular way, having a certain way of expressing herself. You can take that exact same expression and put it on a white gay man and it’s so much more acceptable.”

Janani: “And marketable.”

Autostraddle (signal boost):

Also, Autostraddle has an article that highlights 50 zines by queer (and trans) people of color: http://www.autostraddle.com/50-zines-by-queer-people-of-color-184692/

Part 1: White Silence and Black Deaths

#blacklivesmatter, #Ferguson, activism, agender, ally, Eric Garner, genderfluid, genderqueer, media justice, non-binary, non-binary people of color, solidarity, trans people of color, transgender, white silence

TRIGGER WARNING: police brutality, white silence, racism in queer and trans communities, racism in suburbia

Another grand jury says that there is no possible way a police officer can be guilty after strangling an African-American man named Eric Garner on videotape. The person who filmed the murder, however, has been indicted.

Children are dying, and somehow there is no way, no possible way, that those who are killing them can be guilty. Adults, too, are dying, and although our society likes to think it, there isn’t some arbitrary age upon which guilt settles onto the shoulders of black men in this country. Yet—this is how our “safety” officials act. (At least the UN is looking into human rights violations by the United States.)

I am hurting, and I know that it can be nothing like what many people of color are experiencing right now. In addition to the latest manifestation of state violence in a country that has never allowed humanity for people of color, I am also hurting for my silence, and for the silence of my communities. I am hurting for the people who are saying nothing right now. I am hurting for the people who said nothing until now.

I am hurting for all the times that I have stayed silent in my own immediate self-interest, stayed silent to keep my job or to keep some white supremacist “peace.” Stayed silent because I’m “always” that angry one, because do I always have to bring my interests to our family home, because of that time when my dad asked when I’d disown them because our segregated white suburb was too white for me now that I’d become so high and mighty. (Although sometimes that last one spurs me to speaking more, and louder.) Sometimes I’ve stayed silent out of guilt.

I’m stating these reasons not to cry white tears or to say these are good reasons not to speak when lives are on the line, but because I want other white people reading this to think about their own reasons in the times they’ve stayed silent.

I’ve stayed silent at times even though I’m proud to speak out against this BS. Stayed silent even when I know firsthand how desperately solidarity can be needed.

I am hurting from biting my tongue, from the accumulated responsibility and pressure of time after time letting things slide.

I haven’t always let things slide. No. There are also times I address the big and small microaggressions I see, when I’ve worked on campaigns, when I teach about racism, when I work towards institutional change.

I don’t always let things slide, but there are times that I do. And I can’t tolerate myself for that anymore. I can’t tolerate my communities for that anymore. I’m going to speak out every time I can, and I’m going to push myself to do it more. I’m going to fight back with everything I have.

If you’re white and you’ve been silent, too, for these or other reasons, I am asking you to use what influence you have—your voice—and speak out. If you are uncertain, if you feel you don’t have the right to talk about this—you’re right, you don’t have the right. Not to talk about it as if it is your own pain or oppression. Not to make assumptions about what it is like to live through a collective trauma you’ve never experienced.

But you have the absolute responsibility to speak when you hear injustice, even if you aren’t certain how to defend it or what’s wrong about it. Read more and learn if you are uncertain–and you never should be entirely “expert” on another’s oppression. Amplify the voices of people of color—the varied, beautiful voices that exist out in the world.

Don’t only read and reblog—speak out against this BS in your real, actual life. It’s completely fucked, but people listen to white voices more. So use your voice, not to put yourself in the limelight or to preach your opinions on oppressions that are not yours–but to amplify the voices of people of color who are speaking their lived experiences already, and who are fighting back already.

Because white silence is what’s killing people. More than the few who are directly killing people of color, white silence in the face of injustice is killing people every day.

And it starts in our own communities. It starts in my segregated, too-white hometown that my dad thinks that I think I’m “too good” for. It starts with my queer community (stop with the mohawks and fauxhawks and the appropriated African American vernacular already)!

It starts, too, with my trans community. Gender is not essentially white. Constructions of gender are not essentially white. Talking about shifting out of stereotypically white constructions of gender and into other ones, as if there are no other experiences of gender, is erasure and it is colonialism. Appropriating “sass” is racism. Appropriating so many things that many of us white trans people take on as parts of our gender experessions is racism.

Here is a whole long thread about various examples of racism in the trans and queer community. And, for some people, being trans isn’t their sole or defining experience of oppression. Remember that, if you are a white trans person who is privileged in other ways.

I know that I can’t speak to this intersection really at all (and what I’ve been saying already has come from what I’ve heard other people say). What really needs to be heard more is the voices of trans people of color.

So over this coming week, I’m going to highlight some blogs and organizations for trans people of color, in the hope that it will help anyone reading this blog gain some more awareness about what the specific reality of this intersection of oppression looks like. These folks are super rad, and you may already know of them! If not, I hope you enjoy learning about some fab activists and writers.

In particular, I’m going to focus on non-binary people of color, because I know that their voices are heard even less often, and because so many of you who read this blog are non-binary. But you’ll see some binary-gendered folks on this list too.

I’m thinking back to my early days of gender-figuring when someone was asking on a white non-binary person’s blog for some links to blogs of non-binary people of color, and the blogger responded that they had no idea. Here are some responses! Stay tuned…

Ferguson–Another Post

#blacklivesmatter, #Ferguson

TRIGGER WARNING: police brutality, racism

Rule of law was only ever meant for certain people. When will white people wake up? Racism IS OUR PROBLEM. Just look at the stats–MANY MORE WHITE PEOPLE think that our justice system is fair for people of color since Mike Brown’s shooting. Fellow white people, I am calling on you, calling on myself, calling on all of us to disrupt, disengage, destroy white supremacy. I am calling on you to call out racism EVERYWHERE you see it. Call it out so it won’t turn into more, further, deeper violence, real violence, real deaths against people of color.

You may have your own experiences with oppression–though there is nothing quite like the system of white supremacy in this country, and you can’t know its ill effects unless its boot is at your neck. I know that I can’t–but I am raising my voice anyway, because this has to stop. Listen to the wide range of experiences of people of color and serve as an echo chamber for their voices, listen to what they say needs to be done.

You may know what it’s like to face the world’s violence with no allies at your side. Don’t be that person for someone else, that person who sees wrongdoing but does not use their voice and does not act in the face of systemic pulverization of others. You may feel voiceless. But I tell you that you are not. If you’re white, no matter what other challenges you face, your whiteness will make your voice louder. That’s the BS reality we live in. You can and will be heard, you must be heard, together we will be heard.

Read this article, too. It’s powerful stuff.

http://www.salon.com/2014/11/25/i_am_utterly_undone_my_struggle_with_black_rage_and_fear_after_ferguson/

And donate to folks that are helping in Ferguson, if you can.

http://www.autostraddle.com/how-you-can-show-up-for-ferguson/