My dad is a Baptist minister and it is clear that much of the jargon that defines my life and the world around me is rooted in his and other powerful sermons. I was too young to even comprehend the depth of the Biblical text but I knew that this storytelling was impactful to our community.
There is a particular scripture that has played constantly in my mind as I struggle to find meaning in the trauma that is being visited upon my Black trans siblings. Corinthians 1:31 says “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
I think about me as a child. I was bright and bubbly yet I was constantly reminded that my life was in danger from so many angles. I was in danger from G-d if I did not comply with the Bible. I was in danger from white people who might consider me a threat. In reality, I was in most danger of never being allowed to be myself fully and unapologetically. In fact, I was robbed of the opportunity to just be a child, to speak as a child, and to think like a child because every Black person in America must grow up at an uncompromising accelerated pace in the hopes of just surviving in this country.
Being Black in America is already threatening. But as a child, I always felt different within my own Black community. I assumed this was because of my “fancy” whitewashed education that led to me speaking a bit more like Clair Huxtable than Hariette Winslow. As a college student, I finally let myself acknowledge that I loved differently than most of the people from home. I identified as a cisgender woman who only seemed to be moved by other women. The sheer terror of that acknowledgment and the othering that stemmed from that transformational moment seemed to be a sure-fire way to kick me right out of my family and my Black community. I remained stagnant for the next decade because it was as far as I was willing to go in my journey.
The cognitive dissonance of calling myself a woman when I really didn’t identify in that way was a weight around my neck. I tried to fit in as a “bro” in my lesbian community and rose to the highest level of influence in my community. In actuality, it was all a facade to make other folks feel comfortable. However, I am a trans nonbinary lesbian and I was only able to come to this conclusion through love. My life even with the vitriol, hate, and ignorance from strangers, friends, and family has been fundamentally moved and influenced by love of my trans siblings and more specifically my Black trans siblings. All of you drive me daily.
We often reference James Baldwin’s famous words when we talk about being Black in America “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I would posit that if we had to boil down something similar for the Black trans community that it would be something along the lines of “To be a Black trans person in America is a study in courage and a fierce desire to not be forgotten.” I say this because Black trans folks are told that they belong neither in the Black, LGBTQ, or American community on a daily basis. It has become a rite of passage to make it to the age of 35, which I just hit a few weeks ago. We are beaten in the street when we are around our skin folk. We are constantly targeted by government institutions and told we are not worthy of the laws for which this country was founded. We are told by our LGBTQ+ community that we are somehow defective and mistaken in our assertion in the fundamental principle of who we are. Yet despite every sign that we are not wanted, we love harder. The first folks in line for Black people, LGBTQ+ people, women, and other marginalized people are Black trans folks. We must remember that trans folks have always been here and no matter how organized the assault against our humanity we will not be erased.
Today and every day I will say that I will lead with love and courage and I will not be forgotten. After hearing this message, I ask all of you to take up this mantle and not forget the courageous, beautiful, loving Black trans folks who fought and died for you because we’ve always deserved more than you were ever willing to give.