Trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people have not been centered in the LGBTQIA+ movement.
The LGBTQIA+ movement that we witness in television, print media, and in the law is predominantly a white, gay, and masculine movement. However, when one looks behind the scenes, we witness the emotional, physical, and spiritual labor of femmes, people of color, and those who reject the gender binary.
The truth is: The LGBTQIA+ movement could have never come to visibility if it weren’t for the active participation, resistance, resilience, and pushback spearheaded by trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary leaders of color.
Recently, an active reader of our site commented on our Facebook page. The reader explained that they didn’t know enough trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people of color. In fact, the reader expressed that the only leaders they could identify are dead.
This is the invisibility and erasure that I am writing in response to.
It’s not that trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people of color haven’t been active in the LGBTQIA+ movement. They have – and they have been silenced.
I’ve fallen into this trap of silencing, too. I am a writer. I write about LGBTQIA+ liberation all the time – and even I have failed in actively naming and recognizing my femmetors and accomplices. I know that this is not my fault. There’s a difference between unintentionally perpetuating systemic violence and being invested in that violence.
As a writer, I have noticed that the two trans, gender non-conforming, and/or non-binary people of color I usually write about are Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Both of these women are the reason why we now have Pride. These women were ready to push back and fight back against a system that criminalized them on the basis of their melanin, gender, femme aesthetic and politics.
In fact, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are the founders of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a collective home housing people who rejected the gender binary and did not have a safe home for those reasons. These two trans women of color spearheaded a movement committed to an intersectional class, gender, racial, and sexual politic of liberation – and they are not the only ones.
Our leaders should not have to die to be recognized.
We need to support our leaders (financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually) so that they can continue to develop young leadership.
Liberation must not be a commitment to death.
Liberation has always been a commitment to community, kinship, and to a politic of love, resistance, and accountability. Death must no longer be part of this so-called “liberation.”
As someone who is gender non-conforming, Black, and femme, navigating the day-to-day is an accomplishment: I have been denied entering a public bus on the basis of my gender non-conformity; a stranger once came up to me in public and smacked my face to remove lipstick from my lips; I was once chased out of a train by two people on the basis of my femme aesthetic.
Through multiple social media networks, I asked LGBTQIA+ people of color to name trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people of color in their community who are resisting, inspiring, and keeping it real.
Because of word count, I will name only seventeen leaders, but this is only a start to the conversation. Because resisting has been a painful everyday experience, practice, and way-of-being, making us all leaders, artists, and visionaries who breathe life into the world daily.
There will be more to come, but for now, learn about these leaders, financially support them, book them, lead next to them, and reach out