Founder & Executive Director, Black Trans Travel Fund
HOW DO WE GET FREE? HOW DO WE CREATE JOY? HOW DO WE ENSURE SAFETY? NOT JUST FOR SOME, BUT FOR ALL OF US? THE ANSWER IS “WE DO IT TOGETHER.”
As a young queer trans person growing up in the south I didn’t have a sense of a community. I had no safe spaces to go to. I had no representation of someone like me to make me feel like I wasn’t the anomaly peers and adults made me out to be. Like many trans people, general harassment was a common theme. Between being banned from activities over gendered dress code, to attempted arrests over transphobic bathroom policies, I’m no stranger to the discrimination and violence institutions enact to deny the bodily autonomy of anyone who isn’t a cisgender, heterosexual man. This had such a deep impact on my mental health that I almost took my life. Had I not managed to move to New York where I was able to access gender affirming care and get connected with an LGBT center with resources and an affirming environment, I may not be here today. As someone whose life is now enriched by a loving community, I recognize the lack of care that I received in my early youth, and the effect that community support, or lack thereof, has on the body, mind, and spirit.
OUR LIBERATION IS TIED TO COLLECTIVE CARE.
Over the last decade I’ve spent a lot of time in organizing spaces, deepening my political education, participating in direct actions, and engaging in mutual aid, which continues to remain the main focus of my work. For years before founding the Black Trans Travel Fund, I had been running weekly social support groups for trans masculine individuals that focused on redefining & centering healthy masculinity, as well as helping to hold many co-ed trans support spaces. Things that were overwhelmingly clear for me while navigating these spaces were the disparities in financial security and access to resources across racial lines, as well as the unique and drastic experiences of violence that our trans sisters, predominantly Black trans women, were facing. Each year we were coming together for Trans Day of Remembrance to honor the lives of those of us that were lost to transphobic violence, and each year the list of names has remained majority that of Black trans women. With most Black trans people living below the poverty line, I couldn’t help but recognize the interconnectedness of misogyny, racism, transphobia, & capitalism that were directly contributing to an epidemic of violence that my community is facing.
So how do we mitigate this violence as we work towards bringing it to end? How do we lift up our people so that they are in a position to not just survive, but to thrive? As a Black trans radical committed to dismantling white supremacy, capitalism, and cis-hetero-patriarchy, I look towards the legacy of organizers who came before us, and the blueprint they gave us for being able to meet each other’s needs. I look to Marsha P. Johnson, co-founder of STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a radical political collective who fed and housed homeless queer and trans youth, while demanding an end to the violence police and the state have historically enacted against gender expansive people, and how her work and dedication has forever changed the lives of queer and trans people all over the world. I think about the impact of the Black Panther’s, how they organized around community safety. I often reference their Free Breakfast For School Children Program that simultaneously fed children and engaged adults in their community with political education that was focused on the liberation of Black people (they also moved from an international politic knowing that anti-Blackness is a global struggle). In order to disrupt the Black Panther Party’s influence and recruitment, The U.S. enacted The WIC Program that currently supports the nutrition of low-income women, infants and children, which would not exist if not for the success of BPP’s mutual aid based Program.
Black Trans Travel Fund is a Black trans led collective rooted in mutual aid and self-advocacy. We work to support the safety and wellness of Black trans people by redistributing resources to Black trans women globally. We do this because we recognize the importance of centering the most marginalized and heavily impacted by systematic violence when working towards liberation for all oppressed people. When you understand that all of our struggles are interconnected, that capitalism and white supremacy go hand-in-hand, that transphobia and colonialism are directly tied, that the daunting task ahead of us is a worldwide struggle, the need for us to unify becomes overwhelmingly clear. Capitalism has influenced a culture of individualism. A “dog-eat-dog” world that has convinced us that when a person goes hungry, unhoused, unloved, that it is a result of an individual failing rather than a society that has encouraged us to put ourselves first, to value profits over the lives of human beings, when there are more than enough resources to go around. We’re told of the need for self-care more each day, but it is community care that will save us, that will get us back to where we’re meant to be. Individually we can only do so much, but collectively we have the power to radically transform the conditions of our world. We must continue the fight for the safety and respect of ALL people. When Black trans women are free, we will all be free.