INTERVIEW: Fight trans homelessness with J. Skyler Robinson

There are at least 1.4 million trans adults and around 150,000 trans youth living in the United States today. Although they only make up .6 and .7 percent of their respective populations, trans people in the U.S. are much more likely to face astounding levels of interpersonal violence, lack of healthcare, and homelessness. The latter is often a function of various manifestations of discrimination and family rejection.

J. Skyler Robinson aims to tackle the issue of trans homelessness head on.

Black Youth Project sat down with the Black, genderqueer transwoman to discuss their plans to create a transitional living home to support especially vulnerable trans people.

How did you decided to start mobilizing to create this transitional living home?

“I used to live in a Los Angeles gay and lesbian transitional living program for youth. I was there for a two year period. Since this was something that I’ve actually lived through, I know how beneficial it is. So that’s what led me to try and start up my own version of it. However the biggest difference is that it’s specifically for the transgender community.”

What is it that you hope trans people will be able to experience during their time in the transitional living home?

“My biggest hope is that trans people have a safe space to stay, and time to recuperate from whatever troubles they were experiencing before, to re-enter regular society and the workforce. Trans people face a myriad of violence: interpersonal, economic––so much. So having an area to rest and recuperate, I think, is so important.”

How crucial is that area of reprieve––especially in the current political climate?

“It’s definitely been compounded by the Trump Administration. Even Ben Carson, the new HUD Secretary, stated that he didn’t want [public housing] to be comfortable for homeless people, because he thinks people would never want to leave. I think that’s very misguided, and really unethical, even more so with the specific situation trans people face.”

Would you say Trump administration’s views about poor Black people are even more dangerous when one adds trans people in the mix?

“Most definitely. The current administration has demonstrated no understanding of transgender issues and ignorance often leads to death. Black trans women already account for the highest homicide rate among all LGBT people in the US. Employment, housing and healthcare discrimination (which are structural) all contribute to our deaths. I don’t see any reason to think the 45th or anyone in his cabinet would do anything to change this.”

“Where would the transitional living home be located? Do you plan on opening up more around the country?”

“I hope to build this facility in Las Vegas. I live in California, but I travel back and forth between LA and Las Vegas. We didn’t want to build it in California because of the economic situation––California is very crowded and the cost of living is extraordinarily high. So I think Vegas would be the next best step. The trade-off is that California does have the best legal protections of any state for trans people. Nevada is very close on a number of points, but my main concern was for those exiting the program who might be looking for work and housing. So I think this location would make it a bit easier.”

What stage is the project in now?

“We’ve already handled the articles of incorporation, but we’re not tax exempt yet. When you incorporate an office, the first stage is actually getting the Employer Identification Number, but filing for tax exempt status is a completely separate process… But we’ve filed that paperwork already.”

How much overall do you think you’d need to raise?

“So far, our goal is set at $500,000. That cost right now is primarily to be able to buy land to build the facility, and hire an executive staff to work on the project. But within the next 5 years, I’d like to have a volunteer board of directors and a fully compensated executive staff who would guide the entire project. So the current goal would go to those two things.”

What message would you like people to take away as they learn more about your project and the dire situation many trans people are currently facing?

“We have a lot of people looking out for themselves and literally no one else. That selfishness is apparent across all marginalized groups living in the United States right now, so whatever we can do to pull together and ensure that the people who are most vulnerable are taken care of, I think that’s where a great deal of our focus should be. I know the end goal for this facility is at least a few years away, but what can definitely happen right now is getting the ball rolling so we can get to the next stage.”

You can donate to J. Skyler’s transitional living home project here.

What you need to know about Chicago’s ‘gang database’ and the lawsuit from local activists

In a “broken windows” fashion, the Chicago Police Department sustains a gang database of its residents. They say this is in efforts to stay ahead on crime. They also seek to punish those on the list to the fullest extent of the law when the opportunity presents itself.

As of last week, CPD and it’s gang database are at the center of a recent lawsuit after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the home of Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez. This happened after incorrect information about him surfaced through this database, identifying him as a gang member. Not only is the department being hit with a lawsuit, they will also be answering to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request about how the database is used. The suit was filed on behalf of BYP100, Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), and the MacArthur Justice Center.

Simply, the gang database is an excuse to justify further surveillance and excessive force against Black and Brown folks in this very sensitive time regarding citizenship.

Diddy’s Revolt TV Sued For Firing Old White Men

Douglas Goodstein and four other Caucasian producers are firing back at Sean “Diddy” Combs and his company Revolt TV because they feel they were treated unfairly and fired because they were white. And over 39 years old.

The team of producers filed a Manhattan Supreme Court suit and claim that they were regularly treated “worse than other employees who were younger and African-American,” according to Page Six.

A Few Ways to Support Police Abolition In The New Year (Or Right Now)

“Why do we accept forms of security that are rooted in violence?” – Angela Davis, Lecture at University of Chicago November 2016

When I first learned of prison abolition it was from Angela Davis during a lecture she gave at my college campus in 2009. The concept of prison abolition seemed so large and out of reach and it wasn’t something I put much thought into until this year, but a defeatist attitude isn’t what abolished slavery – so who am I to doubt the possibilities of abolition?

At What Point Do We Give Up on Our Problematic Faves?

As a Lil’ Wayne fan, I’m disappointed, and I’m allowed to be.

After his recently shared interview with ABC’s Nightline, where Wayne expressed that he doesn’t feel connected to the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of Black people reacted on social media and I think we all can admit, it was painful to watch. Many Black folks responded with “stop asking Lil’ Wayne questions about important things” or “what did you expect” from an artist like him? Well I expected more, to be honest, and to count him out of the conversation just because his answers don’t align with the current conversation around uplifting the Black community doesn’t seem right to me.

One thing I’ve learned is that in our efforts to push the Movement, we don’t have people to spare – why are we so opposed to calling him, and entertainers like him, in? Why are we so ready to throw them out, rather than challenge them?

Study Reveals Uber, Lyft Drivers Discriminate Against Passengers

The convenience of services like Uber and Lyft has lead to many passengers electing to use them instead of cab services. Especially given the complicated history that cab drivers have with picking up and ignoring certain passengers.

However, a new study shows that Uber and Lyft may suffer from the same issues in regards to discrimination practices, according to Huffington Post.

Review of ‘The 13th’: When Art Imitates Life, We Have to Ask “What’s Next?”

Regardless of where you are in your political education, Ava DuVernay’s documentary The 13th was pretty well done.

Weaving the staggering numbers of rising incarceration rates with the insights of prominent activists, journalists, and academics coupled with a soundtrack that highlights the connectedness of mass incarceration to Black realities, it is a signature piece of art imitating life. The 13th brought many conversations around systematic racism that usually happen in select circles to a potentially larger audience, but I’m not sure if anyone besides the usual “woke” circle sat in on this one, and if they did – what now?