On August 7, 1995, Generation Progress tells us that Tyra Hunter died in a car accident in Washington, D.C. A transgender Black woman, Tyra had what the courts later said was an 86% chance of survival with proper medical care. She didn’t get it. Instead, when EMTs realized she was transgender, they began hurling racial and transphobic slurs. They refused to treat her. She passed later that day. It was so blatant, so obviously a case of discrimination that even more than twenty years ago, a Superior Court ruled that “paramedics were negligent and violated [Tyra’s] human rights,” according to the Associated Press. In 1995, Black Trans lives did not matter to the DC EMTS.
Do Black Trans Women’s Lives Matter Now?
Do Black Trans lives matter now? Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was found dead on the side of the Schuylkill River. Local news calls the murder “grisly.” In the middle of Pride Month, transgender activist Tatyana Woodward says, “It’s a risk to be to living in our truth, and live who we want to be and authentically … Right now as a Black Trans woman I’m upset.” Woodward hopes that Fells’s death will shed more light on how much Black Trans lives matter in America.
Two Black trans women have been reported dead this week. Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells of Philadelphia, PA and Riah Milton of Liberty Township, Ohio. #RestInPower #BlackLivesMatter #BlackTransLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/2djG4i3U6c
— Raquel Willis (@RaquelWillis_) June 12, 2020
The same week, reports CBS, Riah Milton was lured to a place where three suspects could rob her car and was fatally shot. Her sister, Ariel Mary Ann, also transgender, reports that the media initially misgendered her. She says that “the stories of her sister and other slain transgender victims are tragic and heartbreaking, but these stories need to be told.” We need to shout from the rooftops that not only do Black lives matter, but the lives of Black Trans women matter. Ariel Mary Ann says, “I will continue to fight and push for the voices of black transgender women to be uplifted until the day I die. We deserve to be heard, to be loved, and for our very existence to be acknowledged.”
Not only are Black Trans women’s lives treated as if they don’t matter — in many, many cases, Black Trans women are treated as if their lives don’t exist. They’re misgendered. Their deaths are ignored. They’re treated as second-class citizens.
How Much Are They Ignored?
In 2019, The Human Rights Campaign reports that at least 22 trans people and 19 non-gender conforming folk were murdered that year. That’s reported deaths. Of those 22 women, all but one were Black. The president of the organization says that “Transgender women of color are living in crisis, especially Black transgender women.” We in America are sending a message, and we’re sending it loud and clear: Black Trans lives do not matter. Since January 2013, we’ve lost a staggering 127 Black Trans women and gender-nonconforming women of color.
Black Trans lives are ignored. And they’re one of the most at-risk populations in the LGBTQ community.
The National LGBTQ Task Force tells us that Black Trans people face the highest rate of discrimination in the LGBTQ community.
If Black Trans Lives Don’t Matter, What Are the Consequences?
Obviously, they live in fear for their lives. Since the beginning of 2020, we’ve lost 14 Trans and non-gender conforming people, reports CNN.
But The National LGBTQ Task Force data also says that Black Trans people were discriminated against more than any other group of people surveyed. Their jobless rate? A staggering 26%, twice the rate of other Trans and non-gender-conforming people, and 4 times the rate of the rest of the population (these numbers, in 2019, obviously were before the COVID-19 outbreak).
41% of Black Trans people have reported homelessness at some point in their lives.
Almost half have attempted suicide.
What Are We Doing About It?
On June 14, protesters held a rally in New York especially for Black Trans women, says CNN. But as Eliel Cruz, one of the organizers and the event and director of communications at NYC Anti-Violence Project, says, “We can’t just talk about trans people when they’re dying… But what are we doing actively and intentionally to create space for them to be safe and well?”
The organization is raising awareness of deadnaming Trans women in news reports (Riah was originally deadnamed). One organization is working hard to deliver free meals to Trans and gender-nonconforming people who are “experiencing food insecurity.” Another is helping them obtain health care and housing.
Health care’s a particularly important issue in the Black Trans community. If we want to prove that Black Trans Lives matter, we need to improve their access to fair and equal healthcare. Primary Care and Preventative Health Needs of Transgender Patients reports that a staggering 42% of Trans women have reported healthcare discrimination in needed care, and 48% surveyed said they experienced discrimination in preventative care. That’s in the Trans women population as a whole, not Black Trans women. 55% are clinically depressed. 52-54% have a lifetime history of clinical depression.
When it comes to healthcare barriers, we have so far to go to prove that the lives of Black Trans women matter.
Luckily, the Supreme Court just ruled that people cannot be fired for being transgender or gay.
We know that Black Lives Matter. But at the intersection of race and sexual identity comes an even more marginalized group. It’s time we showed up for them. Black Trans women’s lives matter. Period.