Loving trans and non-binary folks doesn’t make you a radical
There’s no cookie for loving and fucking us.
This essay contains discussions of suicide, intimate partner abuse, and transmisogyny
by Loni Amor
Since last week, dozens of activists, journalists, influencers, and entertainers have come forward to tweet and post #RIPReese, a hashtag memorializing a man named Reese who recently died by suicide. Posts raising awareness of Reese’s death came after a video was shared by Afro-Latinx non-binary “Pose” star Indya Moore.
The video depicted a group of Reese’s cisgender, male counterparts harassing him for his romantic and sexual relationship with a Black, transgender woman named Faith Palmer. Those who initially joined in mourning Reese were under the impression that the suicide was triggered by his being publicly chastized, and this version of the story and the video went viral.
Hours later, many of these same activists, journalists, influencers, and entertainers began deleting and editing their earlier posts. Black transgender activists, primarly those who are Black transgender women like Faith Palmer, took to Twitter and Instagram to name the accepted narrative surrounding Reese’s death as a misrepresentation of reality.
The Marsha P. Johnson Institute wrote in an Instagram post, “Reese’s suicide is not the time to discuss cis men who date trans women. Faith [Palmer] went on Instagram Live to clarify that Reese actually died of an overdose after she left him. A heavy drug user, Reese threatened to take his life and Faith’s. She ran away to safety, and it was then that he committed suicide.”
The viral video has been initially posted in February of this year and in resurfacing, it has been reframed as being both recent and the primary motivation for Reese’s suicide. In a reply to Munroe Bergdorf, a Black transgender woman model, editor, and activist, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute implored those within and outside of the transgender community not to use Faith’s trauma “as a jumping point for a larger conversation [on toxic masculinity’s impact on trans amorous men] while she sits on the sidelines still in suffering…We need to be on the side of Black trans women not the cis men so many of us have been socialized to seek for validation.”
Many folks, including those who are queer and/or transgender or non-binary, have chosen to engage this conversation at Faith Palmer’s expense, holding her former lover and abuser up as some crusader of trans liberation, all because at one point he publicly loved her, did not hide the fact that he enjoyed sex with her, and sufferred public humiliation and social isolation because of it.
Because Reese dared to love a Black transgender woman publicly, some “allies” and members of the community seeking cisgender approval believe it to be in poor taste to highlight his history of intimate partner violence against Faith or to even demand a public interrogation of cisgender folks’ hero complex when it comes to acknowledging their romantic and sexual relationships with Black trans people.
Frankly, I’m as nauseated and terrified that the smallest ounce of compassion and love shown toward Black transgender and non-binary people is elevated to something extraordinary as I am fearful and outraged for Faith’s safety in wake up her story’s virality. The nausea and fear is only exacerbated by the knowledge that, even though I’m not alone in these feelings, they are not enough to sound any alarms within these alleged organizing circles our “allies” occupy.
It’s not enough to force a communal reflection on how we have been socially conditioned to treat Black transgender and non-binary people, for us to finally talk about how cisgender folks’ sense of self crumbles with the mere realization that there’s no cookie for loving and fucking us. Doing so won’t actually grant them access to Black trans spaces nor make them an authority on our lived experiences that they so clearly desire to be.
As imperative as this conversation is, as demonstrated by these circumstances, many will walk away still believing that there are woke points to be scored without realizing that there is nothing extraordinary about a person who is romantically or sexually involved with a Black transgender or non-binary person. There is absolutely nothing extraordinary about being romantically and/or sexually attracted to and involved with us, because we are human.
As much as I hate to apply the reductory “we’re all one race, the human race” to any subject, it’s the simplest way I know how to articulate how imperative it is that we normalize these romantic and sexual relationships. Black transgender and nonbinary survivors of intimate partner violence shouldn’t have to heal in an environment in which our abusers are rewarded simply for their proximity to us.
Loni is an Afro-Puerto Rican community organizer and freelance essayist. At their alma mater, Hofstra University, they founded the Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition and served as President of the organization for three consecutive terms. They are now pursuing a MPA/J.D. in Public Accountability: Inspection and Oversight at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and at CUNY School of Law.