Imagine just for a second, how it must feel to have to question yourself in everything that you do. From what you wear, how you walk and how you talk, to things such as how you wear your hair or what friends you will walk around with.
Imagine knowing the fear that forces this type of questioning of yourself is present only because you have realized that who you are, requires you to draw less attention to yourself. Even if you want to express yourself as your fullest self, you don’t because you know that you may be indirectly placing yourself in harm’s way.
Imagine waking up every day in fear for your life.
Imagine walking outside of your home with your head down or constantly preparing yourself for the worst. Having pepper spray, razor blades, or knives hidden in places easy to reach just in case something happens and you need to defend yourself?
Imagine getting on public transportation and walking to the very back of the bus as you prepare yourself to go to the doctor and someone goes out of their way to not only misgender you but bluntly gets everyone around you in on what is happening in attempt to further shame you when the only thing you have done is sit down.
Imagine going to work and having coworkers belittle, chastise, and verbally assault you, admit to both your supervisors and HR that they’ve done so simply because of who you are, and have no type of corrective action done to the aggressors.
Hell. Imagine having to go to work where all this is happening while feeling trapped because the opportunities for work are limited because of the ignorance employers have when it comes to hiring people like you. Especially when you are fighting against multiple false stereotypes that are connected to the totality of your being that is intertwined in the web of race, gender and socioeconomic status.
Imagine always finding yourself in a place of questioning, “is it safe for me to talk about who I am or do I keep quiet and subject myself to false assumptions and accusations of who they think I am and what I am about?”
Imagine having to constantly restablish the narrative of what it means to be different and that not all of what you’ve heard is fact or relative to all those who are just as different as you are.
Imagine never knowing where you fit in. Imagine having to constantly tell your family and friends to respect who you know yourself to be and not who they’ve created you to be or even worse, being forced to decide is your life better off with or without them.
Imagine not knowing how to deal with people who take interest in you because experience has taught you that they will be accepting of who you are until someone else finds out and begins to question them and then the disrespecting of you begins.
Imagine having to constantly be in a war with people who refuse to step outside of their ignorance to see you. Imagine these same people constantly telling you that you are crazy or that you need to go back to being your “other”, “former” or “biological” self to make life easier as though that is the pill to make everything better.
Imagine having to fight for every other marginalized group, regardless of race, and having no one say your name.
This is the life that many of our black trans brothers and sisters live. They are a marginalized community within a marginalized community that is then even more marginalized.
A few days ago it hit home for me, the magnitude of what it means to live as a trans person of color. I have had friends for as long as I have been out and gay (15 years and counting) that have been trans and even though I have stood beside them, I have still always had my being a male that operated in spaces the way societal norms have told me is acceptable as a pillow. Even if it weren’t my truest self, I was able to appear as though it was without much of an eyebrow raise.
The scenarios I asked you to imagine above are just a few of the things that the people I call family has had to deal with since I’ve known them and to me, those things are all still very surface. Can you imagine what life must be like them every day — combatting all of those things multiple times a day, if not all day long?
On Saturday the 5th trans woman to be murdered in 2017 was a person I knew, Chyna Gibson. A person who was loved and admired by many in and outside of the LGBT community. This hits home for me because it is home. This wasn’t a news story that I looked at and went on about my business because the person who was mentioned in it was a stranger to me.
I am writing this because it shouldn’t have to take someone you have watched blossom get shot at least 8 to 10 times walking to her car in order for you to wake up and realize that shit has to change.
As a black man, who is also gay, there is a level of privilege that I have that isn’t afforded to many of my trans sisters and brothers. I must start using what I have to push their stories forward with the same amount of fervor that I push my own with.
Just like myself, their lives are necessary. They are deserving of fair treatment, the right to walk out of their homes without fear, love, respect and equal opportunities for employment and healthcare. I vow to do what I can to work to make sure that happens. Will you?
All lives don’t matter if black lives don’t. And black lives can’t matter fully if this concept fails to include all of our black lives.
Rest in power Chyna.
Also published on Medium.