By: J. Skyler
Since Trump took office, we have seen a widespread assault on civil liberties, fueled by racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, ableist and transphobic neo-nazi rhetoric that has left those of us who live in the margins of American society petrified. From the planned repeal of the Affordable Care Act, to the environmental disaster of the Dakota Pipeline, to the recension of Obama era guidelines on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, disenfranchised Americans are wondering if it is possible to literally survive under the Trump administration. Transgender people, particularly trans women of color who live with multiple axes of oppression, are especially vulnerable.
We are barely three months into 2017 and seven Black trans women have been murdered; a much more rapid and alarming pace than 2016, the deadliest year on record according to the limited data available. Although there are a multitude of factors that lead to the untimely death of transgender people, one which is rarely examined is economic violence–state and federal policy and other factors which prevent financial stability. The solution, in part, to giving us some version of a fighting chance is to ensure access to economic mobility, and that requires a radical redistribution of wealth.
The concept of violence for the most part is unduly restricted to physicality. However, Encyclopedia of Interpersonal Violence (2008) emphasizes that the modern feminist framework operates on the extended “definition of violence that includes sexual, psychological, and economic violence as well as physical violence.” Economic violence includes any policy or situation that limits or bars an individual from attaining financial stability.
As actress Laverne Cox pointed out, if trans people are not allowed to use public facilities, the inevitable conclusion is we are not allowed to exist in public spaces. If we are unable to find a job due to employment discrimination, we cannot provide for ourselves. Discriminatory housing (including shelter-based housing for the homeless), leaves us with no living space. When healthcare tied to our transitions and/or disabilities is unattainable because we must pay for it out of pocket, it places our lives in mortal danger. Being in abusive relationships with romantic and/or sexual partners, caretakers or family members who control our finances creates an inescapable tie to ongoing cycles of abuse. Facing these multiple forms of economic violence and others simultaneously forces us into situations that dramatically increase our odds of becoming victims of neglect, suicide or homicide.
Although economic justice is often a topic of limited conversation, the founders of the LGBT civil rights movement in America have always been privy to its importance. Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, founders of Street Transvestite/Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and the STAR House fought to keep trans and gender nonconforming youth sheltered. They also fundraised for legal services and medical care. Bayard Rustin, mentor to Martin Luther King, incorporated economic justice as a core component of his activism. According to The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame (2012) by Peter Dreier “Rustin drafted a ‘Freedom Budget,’ released in 1967, that advocated ‘redistribution of wealth.’ Rustin’s ideas influenced King, who increasingly began to talk about the importance of jobs and economic redistribution.”
Though not as vocal on the topic as his mentor, The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.: From “Solo” to Memphis (2015) by David J. Garrow notes that in private, “[King] made it clear to close friends that economically speaking he considered himself what he termed to be a Marxist, largely because he believed with increasing strength that American society needed a radical redistribution of wealth and economic power to achieve even a rough form of social justice.”
Created in July 2016, #TransCrowdFund, as well as its derivatives #DisabilityCrowdFund and #FemCrowdFund, were created for the express purpose of redistributing wealth to those in need. It provides the most vulnerable with the opportunity to solicit funds when there is no alternative available and provides those with the means to give to assist in our daily struggle to survive. In some cases, these funds are needed to restructure our lives completely.
In the digital age and with the advent of social media, crowdfunding has become a vital, if not fully realized method of wealth redistribution. When lives are on the line, and immediate action is required, we cannot rely on policy changes to take effect or for the trickle down economics of donating to major organizations to help those in crisis. This is not to suggest we ever stop pushing for policy change or that nonprofit organizations don’t do necessary work, but resistance requires utilizing all available tools to bring about revolution, and crowdfunding is one of the best we having in helping the most vulnerable in our society survive.
Resistance takes many forms, but it’s time we realize that effective resistance requires a radical–and voluntary–redistribution of wealth. Without this feature, our work will always be incomplete.
Photo via Twitter
J. Skyler is an author, activist and public speaker on gender and sexual diversity in culture, politics, race, feminism and representation in media. Their work is featured at ComicBookBin, Comicosity, ComicsAlliance and in Cinema Journal – published quarterly by the University of Texas Press.