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Jamila Dawn Mitchell is a trans woman of color that’s been an activist, author and organizer for over a decade. She’s started nonprofits to service the mentally ill and has made a career as a healthcare systems administrator.
I’m afraid while I’m marching.
No matter how “peaceful” I protest, I know that the mere proclamation that I have a right to exist free of tyranny is a reason to have me killed – not just by the police. While racism has been recognized by Milwaukee as a public health issue, I am targeted by anti-transgender violence that the American Medical Association has called an “epidemic.”
As a Black transgender woman, I live in the same world that brutality reminded Muhlaysia Booker, “They hate us . . . They want us dead.” Last year’s incident where Muhlaysia was brutally beaten in Dallas could have been me — a man tried to follow me home just two months later after her incident.
Every moment I walk out the door, it is either racism or transphobia that I have to deal with. It is mere luck that I have not been among the fifteen transgender people killed so far this year, simply for being ourselves. Yet, I march in a crowd knowing that many do not want out trans men and women to be visible.
Ignorance is not an excuse to hate us. And we aren’t new. Trans men and women have been the fire to modern civil rights movements for equality. Long before Madam Marsha P. Johnson, there was Lucy Hicks. As told by the blog TransGriot, Lucy Hicks was a Black trans woman is one of the earliest known advocates for trans rights and marriage equality. Following her marriage to a soldier in Ventura County, California, in 1944, she and her husband were found guilty of perjury despite her stance that she was always a woman. Later, the federal government would charge her for fraud and send her to prison. The reason I mention this — Black trans women have always been alive no matter how patriarchy tries to erase us.
And so, my transgender comrades and I march for the right to be included, to work, to be loved, to exist outside of tyranny. I am tired of the struggle to find a company that will employ me as I am. Transgender people are more likely to be unemployed, and many of us live well below the poverty line. Yet, money becomes the least of our concerns when we are not safe.
I am angry that before I could finish writing this article, another Black trans woman was killed in her home. In my hometown of Chicago, a trans woman named Selena Reyes-Hernandez was shot to death after she told her assailant that she’s transgender.
We are dying at the hands of patriarchy and white supremacy, too. I say the names of Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells. They were two beautiful Black trans women that were murdered on June 8 and 9, respectively. I mourn Tony McDade, the Black trans man that was shot by police in Florida while running.
Ignoring the significance of their individual deaths avoids foundations of violence in this country. The hatred that takes the lives of Black trans women comes from the same root of domestic violence, police brutality and racism. Which is why I, and other transgender people, are fighting for justice.
Riah Milton posted on Facebook in March, “Never been scared to struggle. Imma get it eventually.” We will eventually get the equality and justice for all Black lives, no matter how dangerous it is for us to be ourselves.