There has recently been this new wave of sentiment and glorification for men who claim to love Transgender women. While this identification in and of itself is neither harmful nor dangerous, the ways in which these dynamics can play out through oppressive systems most certainly are. Recently, this exaltation of “trans-attracted” men has created an enormous rift between members of the Black Trans sisterhood and for good reason. It has come to the realization of many that the “sisterhood”, as rigidly understood, can and will kill us all.
As Trans people have become more visible and the community more public, there has been a shift in political/economic stance that runs and controls community wealth. The rise of neoliberalism has dangerously taken hold of public discourse and infiltrated the narratives fed to us. The adoption of this oppressive mindset is neither new nor unique to the trans community as it occurs in every movement intricately designed to push for some form of integration. As a Black woman myself, I have seen the damage done by neoliberal politics to our Black communities and how it’s created huge socio-economic depressions as a whole. This false idea that oppressed people can thrive through Capitalist structures not only takes the focus off of the continual violence and destitution plaguing our people but it puts the onus on us and not our oppressors for our situations and makes us falsely believe that we can save ourselves as long as we “work the system”.
While working the system can, in fact, reap a great benefit for particular members of the community, it in no way contributes to collective liberation which shall always and forever be the end goal. This newfound investment into Capitalism has only been beneficial for the select few bodies that have been deemed pretty enough, palatable enough, quiet enough, and influential enough. However, the vast majority of Black Trans femme’s embody neither of these categories. This adoption of sentiments that feed into and thrive off of the very same system that has kept us in the dark for so many centuries contributes to the demise and silencing of Black Trans people.
The Trans community’s politics are a direct mirror of that of the broader community, down to the oppressive systems and complicit mentalities. We have each become gears which collectively form the machines that power our newly created Trans Industrial Complex. We have become agents of our destruction, but we are blinded to the fact by a select few who have gained access to the wealth, prosperity, notoriety, and love that we have so desired. We have begun to operate on possibility models and concede to the systems which seek to entrap and eliminate us.
Black Trans women have become the fuel of the industrial complex all while we are undermined and underpaid. And as we are continuously consumed, we don’t realize how we’re contributing to our downfall. We power the movement and are the lifeblood of its survival, so we are ultimately blinded as we think that this is the work. We believe that the exploitation of our narratives and being forced into visibility and public conversation to obtain grants and general respect is the work. We have not even realized that this dehumanization of Black Trans women has turned us solely into capital and that without us here to be manipulated and divided, the industry itself would die. Or maybe we do realize this, but we stay invested in the movement because we think that it’s progressive and will save us when in all actuality, it is specifically the system that has set us all up to fail.
Anti-blackness in the Trans community has never been a trivial issue and is so sorely overlooked that we begin to choose our gender politics over our blackness. Liberation for Trans people begins with liberation for Black and Brown people. Thus, we cannot delineate our full selves from the movement’s push for initiatives and policies centered around our wellbeing and survival.
The framing of Black men as the primary killers of our people is not as much of a public emergency as it is completely anti-black and filled with fear mongering and deceptive rhetoric. What better way to profit off of our pain than to demonize the very intracommunity relationships into which we have become invested. (This concept is another conversation to hold at a different time.)
This notion has so brainwashed Black Trans women that our dedication to and exaltation of men who claim to love us openly betrays our relationships and alignments with our sisters. Our politics have been completely diminished to sex and desire when, quite frankly, those conversations are in no way powerful or beneficial. The question of whether or not Black Trans women can be loved and desired has been a conversation pushed into our scope through anti-blackness. We question our value and worthiness so intensely that we allow men to dominate once again our spaces and control our narratives.
Trans attached men do need to have conversations and should be permitted to shift public understanding of desire of queer bodies. However, sex and desire do not correlate to value or liberation of Black Trans women. There should never have been the question of whether or not we are desirable because we are and we know it. Trans attached men are simply allies to our cause and should never have space to dominate the public conversation or be used to measure our worth.
Recently, we have become so invested in the Trans Industrial Complex and our internalized anti-blackness that a blind eye had been turned to the intimate partner violence that has kept our sisters silent or forced them into the grave. We have become so busy in saving the black man that there has been outright complicity to the violent abuse and domination of our sisters.
The disruption of the Trans Attached men panel during Creating Change 2016 was a direct response to the ways in which abusers infiltrate and navigate our communities. An abuser of Black Trans women was provided the platform to speak publicly and profit financially off of his violent relationships – simply because he becomes aroused when engaging Black Trans women and admits that openly. We will not stand for the abusers of Black Trans women. Especially those who claim to love us while profiting and building platforms off of the pain of black trans women in public sphere, while abusing us in private.The disruption in no way was propelled by ill will for any of our sisters but against an oppressor given too much space.
Taking control and speaking up was a brave and powerful reclamation of our sister’s dignity, pride, and narrative. We knew that we were opposing the industrial complex, and it’s agents, and it became all too clear when our sisters spoke out against us and were complicit in the violence that our sister faced by her abuser. To hail an abuser as “the godfather” and fight so hard for him as if he is a savior of black trans women speaks all too well to the ridiculous dependency that black trans women have become accustomed to in regards to their connection and relationship with Black men, more specifically, cishet Black men.
The devotion to being accepted into broader society and this disgusting desire to mirror cishet relationships has framed a survivor speaking out against her abuser as a disruption. The neoliberal mindsets that have taken a hold of the agency and mentality of Black Trans women have blinded our sisters from the gravity of the situation before us due to the possibility that this conversation would benefit the “greater good”. The fact that she would have only been believed had she been dead or displayed physical evidence of her abuse speaks volumes to the ways in which we have become violent and valueless.
The use of police reports as proof, when we so vehemently despise police and criminal justice systems for the history of dehumanization and disregard for Black bodies – especially Black Trans bodies – baffles me.
The questioning of our genitals and “states of transition” by our own “sisters” to dissect our motivations is not only violent but absolutely careless and it baffles me.
To utilize the mindsets and framework that our oppressors use against us baffles me.
To desire receipts of abuse even though it’s clear that intimate partner violence is an issue baffles me.
To only respect our sisters and mobilize for them on their death beds baffles me.
There have been conversations concerning ways in which we can organize better or ways to be more prepared and tactful, but these conversations are precisely the ones that the white man holds with us when feeling uncomfortable about our refusal to take scraps and be silent. This disruption illustrated the possible power and resilience of our community – of the sisterhood. We stood against allowing men to continue to profit off of our pain. We stood against silently hurting as our sister’s abuser became integral in our misguided liberation. The disruption was sufficient because our mobilization hit back at the institutions shackling us with equal or greater power. Being a Black Trans woman speaking truth to power and asserting herself makes folks uncomfortable.
The fact that Black intimate partner violence has become a chosen family secret is disgusting. The mere fact that Black Trans women are publicly violating and abusing their own because the “sisterhood” is exposed for its complicity and blindness speaks volumes to the dynamics that anti-blackness, misogyny, Capitalism, and patriarchy play in this movement.
How dare a woman speak out against her abuser, right?
How dare a woman disrupt the system in such a loud and abrupt manner, right?
These are all arguments of misogynists who neither value nor respect the agency and wellbeing of other Black Trans women and we are better than that! The current framing of the sisterhood only works when we are complicit to ageist ideologies or when we sit back and endure our exploitation as Black Trans women. When the sisterhood’s values and mobilization initiatives are misguided, problematic, and headed toward our destruction, to be a woman owning her voice and exposing these facts will force her to be labeled as a “pariah” to the community as a whole. A phenomenon not uncommon, as many vocal and revolutionary leaders and change agents have been pegged the same throughout history.
So what is a sisterhood committed to reinforcing misogyny, patriarchy, ageism, assimilation, and neoliberal politics? We have become exactly what we wish to destroy, and we have repackaged whiteness with its androcentrism, cis/heteronormativity, and anti-blackness as something “revolutionary”. This has been the oppressor’s plan all along, and the refusal to see this and reform it has made many Black Tans women agents of our destruction. We have allowed our narratives to be used and abused, our deaths to become catchy headlines, and our agency and dignity to become profit and capital. I am more than a dollar sign, and I seek and demand reparations for my community. This should be the focus of our sisterhood and the driving force of our movement. But so many have been blinded by celebrity, sexual desire, and a little coin.
When love becomes hurtful or exploitative, it is no longer love. We must keep this in mind as we move forward holding these conversations. Many of our sisters need to sit back and question how they are committed to our collective liberation and also, how they are contributing the cycle of oppression that continues to subjugate us and mask our issues. We are a powerful, resilient people and this moment of weakness is just a wake-up call for us to stay committed to the revolution. Allow “millennials” a platform to inspire as we all bring nuance and fresher understanding to the movement. The revolution won’t happen tomorrow (it’s a slow and gradual process) and I understand the need to survive and exist, but let’s not forsake our morals and values and become part of the institutions that have kept us destitute and oppressed for so long.
When Black Trans women are under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!