TDoR As A Trans Woman of Color, Author, and Activist Reflects on Its Meaning
By: Hope Giselle*/Trans Headlines’ Contributor
When folks ask me what it’s like to be a trans person that question seems easy. I can put together a response in a way that addresses the compartmentalizations around my identity and spew out a politically correct answer that works for everyone in the space in less than 30 seconds. However, when I’m faced with the more specific task of defining my transness and describing it in tandem with my association with being black, I’m at a loss for words.
As it goes, the story seems pretty monolithic and weather the highly publicized truths are your own or not, being a black trans woman means being resilient, empathetic, and broken—with a dash of confidence. So, when I’m asked to compile my experiences into a day of remembrance, I found myself briskly silent as I played back my life and tried to decide what I was willing to share.
As a woman of color and trans experience, it’s fair to say most people assume an immediate emotional diagnosis of my life proves to be true. This trifecta of minority sub-groups proves to be a catalyst in my ever-growing battle for change against a system of laws created to hold #GirlsLikeUs back and the social order that’s been making it ok for it to do so. On Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR; November 20th), I’m forced to ask myself a multitude of questions, most of which can’t be answered at the moment. One, in particular, stands out and seems to hit me like the bricks at Stonewall. What am I doing to help end the reason that this day is necessary in the first place?
I reflect on the lives of my sisters lost and draw the conclusion that something has to be done, but what? What can I do within my oppression to absolve myself of the part that I didn’t play in being able to save my sisters? For a lot of TGNC (TransGender Non-Conforming) people, this day is about acknowledging the fallen.
For a lot of trans women of color, it’s about acknowledging that your life could have been taken away. Looking at a list of the women who’ve left us and knowing that the vast majority of them look like me—share my understanding of being brown in America, living in underserved communities and fighting daily to be seen as a human on multiple spectrums—makes the already deafening sound of marginalization that much louder.
For a lot of black and brown trans folks, this day is simply about being a reflection of the protection you wish you had in your darkest moments. It’s about gathering yourself together and realizing that the very thing that makes you an anomaly to some makes you an inspiration to others!
As a black trans woman of influence, I use TDoR as my way to make myself available to the understanding that this fight didn’t start with me. I’m reminded of the beautiful souls who’ve helped to pave the way for the girls who look like me. I’m reminded of Marsha and Sylvia’s contributions and sacrifices. I’m reminded of Laverne’s courage and vigor. I think about Janet’s wit and patience; all while taking a bow to the countless other women of color who unabashedly do this work on a daily basis. As a black trans woman Trans day of Remembrance means a lot of things for me, but the one thing it truly means is that I get to pay the negativity, the hate, and downright bigotry no mind, if only for 24 hours on the 20th day of November every year and take time to remember the good, the bad, and the hope of change to come.
* Miami native, Hope Giselle got her start in activism and facilitation while in College at Alabama State University. Helping to found and govern the conservative school’s first LGBT organization, Giselle ultimately graduated with a Master’s in Fine Arts as the first openly trans woman to do so and hit the ground running with her modern social take on trans and black bodies in public spaces. The 25-year-old activist and author has now founded her own non-profit organization (AllowMe) and serves as a master inclusion specialist by contract for Transgender Equality. She also works with organizations like HRC, Freedom For All Americans, LGBT University, ITEquality, and TransTech Social, to help ensure that the voices of the communities she’s apart of are heard. Her book, Becoming Hope – Removing The Disguise, is out now. You can buy it here!