Does The Increased Visibility Of Black Trans Women In Mainstream Media Bring Positive Attention To The Countless Black Trans Lives Being Slain On Ground Level?

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written by Bryanna A. Jenkins & edited by Xem VanAdams

BryannaI first began my transition in 2008. At that time, I would have never imagined as a black transgender woman from Baltimore City, that I would see a day where other black transgender women were being recognized nationally for their contributions to entertainment. In recent years, it has become commonplace to witness my sisters dominate television screens, grace the covers of magazines, be included in conversations about feminism and also receive admiration for their beauty, poise and decorum. Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Isis King, Madison Hinton and Amiyah Scott all exist as shining beacons of excellence amongst black transgender women. I applaud each of these ladies who are birthed from the struggles in our community, but use their platforms not only to entertain the masses but to educate and consistently advocate for change amongst the treatment and acceptance of all transgender people.

However, my high is interrupted and I am slapped back to the reality that black transgender women are facing a state of emergency. One of the gifts that the increased media visibility of black transgender women provides is that is has amplified our multiple oppressions.

I’m forced to remember that 17 of my sisters: transgender women of color spread across this country have been senselessly murdered in 2015 alone. I remember that two weeks ago our community lost 5 sisters in one week — with 3 bodies identified in a single day. I have to face the hard truth about a large majority of my sisters being murdered at the hands of men of color who each lady was engaged with intimately or romantically. Every time I see a new headline detailing the story of how one of my sisters has been callously murdered, I think of missed conversations about how necessary it is for black families especially to embrace their children who are transgender and to also continue loving, protecting, and pouring into them. I also think of missed conversations about how space needs to be given to black men who are trans-attracted – helping each one to understand and accept themselves so that they can love transgender women instead of hiding or harming them in fear of social repercussion. I remember that when most of my sisters’ deaths were reported, they were each mis-gendered, misnamed, and vilified in the news. And the one thing that I remember the most is that the same people praising the Amiyah’s, Janet’s, Isis’ and Laverne Cox’s, are the same individuals excusing and condoning the murders of black transgender women on ground level.

There is an ironic dichotomy between black transgender women who have received media visibility and black transgender women who maintain regular everyday lives.

The same people who look to mainstream transgender women as a source of information and entertainment fail to see the humanity of everyday black transgender women whose bodies are constantly under social and physical attack through systems of patriarchy and white supremacy.

There exists a hard misconception regarding the idea that since a few black transgender women have “made it”, that somehow all is well with the black trans community as a whole. I know that is not the case. Black transgender women exist at the intersection of multiple oppressed identities. In America, the oppression of being a person who is black, female, and transgendered is a unique experience that more often than not leaves most black transgender women at the fringes of society. We are most disproportionately affected when it comes to homelessness, unemployment, victims of violence and harassment, faced with discrimination, difficulties accessing healthcare, and being murdered in drove numbers.

Society is still very much uncomfortable with having real conversations about transgender people. The common understanding of our lives is limited to our body parts and neglects our lived experiences. Our narrative has been neglected for so long or has carelessly been clumped into the real stories and tales of gay males.

Additionally, black transgender people have always existed within the structure of the black community at large, but we have always been erased from cultural consciousness due to social levels of hate and intolerance. The experiences of black transgender women have been separated from the experiences of black people as a whole. The increased media visibility has ignited the process of black transgender women socially realigning with the black community in this current climate of black liberation movements.

“Blackness” or what it means to be a black woman in America is diverse and it is indeed varied.

I believe that the work truly begins by having intentional inclusion of issues that affect black transgender women interwoven into movements that are working to address black liberation such as: #BlackLivesMatter. The inclusion would help to change the trajectory of how black transgender people are not only talked about in social spaces but how our humanity is protected and uplifted.

It also remains important for those trans women who start to receive mainstream media visibility to continue bringing the issues of black transgender women to the forefront – using their popular platforms to help dismantle systems of oppression that work to diminish and devalue our lives.

There is a lot of work that still has to be done that will not only involve the visibility of more diverse black transgender women but it will also involve SOLIDARITY from those cisgender people who call themselves friends and allies to our community. Intentional efforts of using cisgender privilege to interrupt patterns of discrimination and erasure for transgender people will be vital if we are to fight for the liberation of the black transgender women we love to see entertain us online, via television or otherwise.

I am hopeful that I will still be living to see a day where black transgender women will not only be celebrated for their contributions to the world at large, but we will also be celebrated for living our most authentic lives — free of judgment, ridicule and shame.

 

Bryanna A. Jenkins, B.S., M.A.

The Baltimore Transgender Alliance

Founder & Director

Trans Activist, Writer

 

Contact Me:

Email: bryannaaeon@me.com

Facebook: Bryanna A. Jenkins

Twitter: @bryannaaeonlaw

Instagram: @bryannaaeonlaw

 

Where You Plant Your Seeds Is Where Your Garden Will Grow

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While out in Mount Washington this morning praying and taking photos, I decided to turn the camera on myself and share a brief message that existed in my spirit. I hope something of what I say resonates with the right individual(s).

I simply want people to realize that the power of change truly does rest in our hands. How you invest your time, energy and attention determines the ways in which certain elements in your life will ultimately take shape. Our circumstances are temporary. Those who plant seeds during harvest season, shall reap the rewards of their hard work and continuing efforts as the tides turn.

 

 

 

Another Holiday Weekend Where My So Called Friends Didn’t Bother To Include Me In Their Group Plans

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As Labor Day Weekend is coming to a close, everyone has begun to upload their group photos from the local pool parties, different out of town excursions and final summer outings at the beach. Meanwhile, you are sitting behind your computer screen and suffering from feelings of rejection or dealing with other self-deprecating thoughts. As you’re seeing pics of fun times filtering through your social media timelines, it’s tough to not wonder, “Why was I not invited?” – Another holiday weekend passes by and all you’ve done is clean up, watch movies and order carry out for ONE.

It’s easy to begin questioning whether or not you’re to be considered socially awkward when you’ve spent three free days behind closed doors and no one in your life has bothered to call or text about making plans. Your friends who decided to stay in town never made mention about going out to eat or getting drinks at the downtown bar, and the guy you’re sort of dating never said anything about coming over to keep your company. As far as you were concerned, everyone was going to lay low, lounge around the house or maybe engage in family activities. However, seeing pictures of people you thought you were close to, hanging out with others you don’t even recognize has made you feel out of the loop. You aren’t necessarily angry or upset, as much as you have become frustrated by not being included in the group activities.

Often times, we see or hear about our friends spending time with their other associates and we make ourselves feel insecure about those relationships. We assume that we are being intentionally left out of “exclusive” outings. As a result, we force ourselves into this mode of questioning our friendship status with certain individuals. It rarely crosses our minds however, that no harm was meant by the parties involved that did not directly include us in their group plans. Circumstances simply created a moment where a circle of people came together for a social event and you were not in attendance. It may seem shady on the part of your good friend, but you have to keep a few situations in mind…

THE PLAN WAS SPONTANEOUS – Every outing isn’t scheduled or detailed ahead of time. Sometimes, plans fall through with one circle of people and your friend is invited to join their associates at the last minute. Since your friend isn’t close to the majority of the group they’re being asked to hangout with, it would be inappropriate for him or her to simply invite you to come along. Their intention may have been to stay in the house the entire weekend. However, your friend never said that they wouldn’t go out if an opportunity presented itself. Did you make any suggestions to your friend for you both to see a matinee movie together or to randomly grab a cocktail on some uptown rooftop? NO.

THE OUTING HAD AN UNSPOKEN OPEN INVITATION – Sometimes, our friends assume that if they are hosting a cookout, movie night or game party at their place, you automatically know that you’re invited. Since the two of you have known one another for so long, your friend doesn’t always deem it necessary to formally ask you to come over or stop by. If you understand the dynamics of your relationship with certain people, the ones you are closest to consider you family. Family is usually the first to arrive with helping hands and possibly a homemade dish as well.

YOU DON’T GET ALONG WITH A PARTICULAR GROUP OF PEOPLE – Your friend has decided to attend an event where the majority of the attendees will be a group of individuals you don’t like or enjoy mixing with. On numerous occasions, you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to be present in the company of certain people your friend hangs around. Keeping this in mind, your friend didn’t even bother to mention the plans because they knew based on past experiences that you’d be uncomfortable or annoyed. YOU SAID IT.

IT WAS ASSUMED THAT YOU ALREADY KNEW ABOUT THE PLANS – Your friend sent out an Evite via email or created a Facebook Event. The digital invitation was sent to you along with everyone else days in advance. Somehow, between your busy schedule and other responsibilities, you had not been able to check your online inboxes. You can be bothered by the fact that you missed the party, but you can’t be angry at the host for not personally calling or texting to invite you. We are adults living in an age where most people plan casual get-togethers online.

YOU NEVER SHOW UP ANY OTHER TIME SO WHY SHOULD THIS EVENT BE ANY DIFFERENT? – We tend to exclude ourselves from group activities so often that our friends become too frustrated to even make mention of an upcoming party or get together. While your second job, romantic relationship or financial obligations don’t always allow you to hangout, the people around you become use to your absence. When the invitation list is being created, it’s assumed that you won’t be able to attend for one reason or another. The fact that you’ve missed the past three or four outings makes people think that you’re too busy or preoccupied to participate. Begin making yourself more available to socialize in public and your name may inch itself back to the top of the invitee list.

Most often, it is a harmless misunderstanding between friends that results in one person not being formally invited to attend an event, or another individual never hearing about a particular outing. However, we can’t rely upon our friends or other people to fill the voids in our lives. While being left out of group events or holiday weekend plans can be hurtful, our happiness or sense of comfort should never depend upon inclusion in social circles or other activities. It is the responsibility of the individual to engage themselves in solo tasks and hobbies that are just as entertaining behind closed doors, as hanging out with other people in public. Create situations for yourself where the absence of an invitation cannot create a hole in your attitude, mood or demeanor.