This past Tuesday, August 25th, over one-hundred activists, organizers, members, and allies of the transgender community merged together to rally in the name of #BlackTransLivesMatter. As the trans contingent of the poignant #BlackLivesMatter movement, the event was in coordination with the larger #BlackTransLivesMatter Day of Action, intended to highlight, underline, and bold both the violence against and the strength of the Black transgender community. Organized by prominent and up-and-coming journalist/activist Raquel Willis, Women On The Rise member and advocate Toni Michelle, and activist Holiday Simmons of Lambda Legal, the rally took place in the Underground Atlanta corridor, just a walk away from the Five Points MARTA Station.
MARTA, and their failure to work to protect and correctly serve their transgender riders, namely Black transgender women, was included on a lengthy list of issues vocalized by the attending activists and speakers. With the recent incident of a Black trans woman being assaulted and attacked by multiple offenders on MARTA still weighing heavy on the hearts and minds of the local transgender community, many attendees displayed their disgust with the transit authority on signs and flyers. MARTA has yet to apprehend any of the victim’s attackers.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the action came when Cheryl Courtney-Evans, canonizing Atlanta transgender icon and organizer of TILTT (Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth), took to the mic and announced her age, 63, and emphasized the average life expectancy of trans women, which is 35. Holiday Simmons rallied for solidarity and accountability with a list of demands that called out communities and non-profits alike: the cisgender gay/queer community, trans men, Atlanta Pride, Black Gay Pride, etc. Yet another touching moment came with Toni Michelle asking crowd members to say, “I love you” and to hug one another. The rally, attended by members of SNaP Co (Solutions Not Punishment Campaign and Coalition), Southern Fried Queer Pride, Atlanta Pride, the Atlanta Radical Faeries, and more lasted a little past an hour, and also included chanting, a transgender take on the Janelle Monae/Wondaland anthem “Hell You Talmbout”, and the driving away of the expected heckler. (Video below)
What I will say, as a Black and Indigenous agender/non-binary trans individual and someone who attended the event, is the Black transgender community has an incomparable amount of resilience and strength. With the current number of transgender people murdered this year alone standing at 21 - most of whom are Black trans women – and with the knowledge that that number is JUST of those reported, one would not expect the #BlackTransLivesMatter rally to have been so invigorated and joyful and intentionally direct. With a “transgender state of emergency” looming over the heads of trans folx and their allies, it only underlines the power and strength and drive to thrive that the transgender community encompasses.
Transgender people’s murders and plight are often sidelined or erased by the wider mainstream gay community and that was not forgotten, sentiments echoed by speaker/my sister/co-cook of Southern Fried Queer Pride, Micky Bee, in an impassioned speech on accountability and acknowledgement of the trans community and our contributions to the larger gay and queer community and culture at large. Living in this day and age, and in this “trans state of emergency”, one can’t help but feel and appreciate the presence of such love and drive to survive and thrive in the trans community. It was truly a special event and one that should happen much more with more support and visibility.
Black trans lives matter. Black trans lives matter. Black trans lives matter and we need everyone to believe it to the fullest extent.