We are in a queer media movement, but is increased visibility the answer to violence?

By George Johnson

This June marked the 17th celebration of “Pride Month,” a designation declared by Bill Clinton to recognize and observe the heritage and culture of LGBTQ people. As LGBTQ rights continue to be attacked politically, growth in pop culture and media is simultaneously surging in areas of journalism, television, Broadway, and the big screen, creating new narratives and shifting the conversation from a hetero focused lens to one more inclusive of what life actually looks like.

However, these two opposing trends lead one to question whether increased visibility and representation is only doing the beneficial work we presume it to be doing in the fight for LGBTQ existence.

Why can’t we defend Blackness when a Black person does something wrong?

“Nothing exists in a vacuum” is a trite old aphorism used to explain how all actions have consequences. It is founded on a basic principle in physics that states that space without matter, by definition, contains nothing. The saying highlights the reality that any actions occurring outside of vacuums create ripple effects because matter connects everything together.

This reality is sometimes used to explain the concept of collateral damage, and how the imprecise targeting of an individual is bound to impact more than just that one person.

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.

How femmephobia and the gender binary caused me to hate myself

By Latonya Pennington

Until recently, gender identity and expression made me feel like a mannequin that has to be dressed up and put into poses. It started when my mother would make me wear this pink, puffy dress when visiting my dad while he worked and lived overseas. The dress just didn’t feel like me. Even after only wearing it for a few hours, it felt confining and uncomfortable–like a costume.

Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow Second Trans Woman Killed In 2017

Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow was found murdered Friday night after a neighbor noticed a “strong odor” coming from her apartment. When Sioux Falls, South Dakota police arrived, they discovered her body, according to Mic.

“Tunkasila has called another one of our community members home,” read a statement on the Sioux Falls Two-Spirit and Allies Facebook group page, which Wounded Arrow was a member of. “Our hearts are broken as we will miss her very much. So again, prayers are needed. Pilamaye.”

Goddess Diamond Is The 14th Known Trans Person Murdered in 2016

**Trigger warning: this story describes violence against a Black trans woman and her murder.**

Trans women continue to be targeted for violence, hatred, and harm in the United States. Sadly, these issues and altercations all too often end in homicide. The fourteenth known trans person was killed in New Orleans on June 9th. Her name was Goddess Diamond even though the New Orleans Advocate has reported her death while misgendering her and using her previous name.

Janet Mock: Trans Women Live At The Intersection Of ‘Pass Her By And Pay Her No Mind’

“If you had one recommendation for recognizing the full identity and addressing the needs of transgender women, what would it be?”

This question was asked to trans activist Janet Mock on Friday, April 29, 2016 at the United Nations headquarters where she spoke on a panel about the need for more visibility of trans black women when talking about issues like homelessness, sex work, rape, and sexual assault.

No Place For ‘Solidarity’: A Reflection on Black Femmes in Social Movement

I remember a young woman in undergrad once announcing to a large group of students,”We have to stand in solidarity with one another even when we don’t necessarily understand or agree totally with the method of engagement.” In that moment I asked myself, “Who does she mean by ‘we’?”

The young Latina was attempting to bring together students of different race and gender backgrounds to rally around a cause specific to Latinx students on campus. At the time, I took her claim wholesale. Taking the word “solidarity” to simply mean unity, I assumed her assertion of group action related to all issues affecting any students in the group, not just those affected by the issue for which she was advocating that day. However, I later found that there was a great deal of anti-Blackness in that group. And, while I can’t generalize that experience to broader communities, it was a harsh lesson in understanding what solidarity really means.