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A Message from Tahirih’s Queer & Trans Caucus

“As long as my people don’t have their rights across America, there’s no reason for celebration.” –Marsha P. Johnson

Tyianna Alexander, Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, Jeffrey “JJ” Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond Kyree Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Jaida Peterson, Dominique Lucious, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smüt, Iris Santos, Tiffany Thomas, Keri Washington, Jahaira DeAlto, Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, Sophie Vásquez, Danika “Danny” Henson, Serenity Hollis, Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, Thomas Hardin, Poe Black, EJ Boykin.

These are the names of the known transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) people who have been killed so far in 2021 throughout the United States—an increase of at least 300% over 2020, which was the most violent year on record for trans and GNC people. Acts of fatal violence have historically disproportionately impacted transgender women of color—particularly Black and Latinx trans women—and this year has been no exception. While we know the names of these 29 individuals whose lives have tragically been taken, the real number is likely far higher, as fatal anti-trans violence often goes misreported or unreported.

Further, in 2021 we have witnessed the worst year in recent history for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the US, with 17 anti-LGBTQ+ bills enacted into law that attempt to strip queer and trans people of their civil liberties—many of which particularly harm transgender youth.

We mourn the deaths of the transgender and gender non-conforming people whose lives have been taken in fatal acts of violence and oppose legislation against the trans and queer community. As of 2017, transgender women are 1.8 times more likely to experience sexual violence when compared with other survivors, and face more barriers to accessing housing, education, employment, and healthcare. LGBTQ+ immigrants are 97 times more likely to be sexually abused in detention than non-LGBTQ+ people in detention. Many of Tahirih’s clients face increased gender-based violence and discrimination as they live in the dangerous intersections of transphobia, homophobia, sexism, misogyny, racism, and White supremacy.

The rising violence against LGBTQ+ people is not new, but rather the legacy of a long history of transphobia and homophobia in this country, and is intimately linked to American anti-Blackness. 

The struggle for queer liberation is intrinsically linked to the fight against gender-based violence and has largely been led by trans women of color and sex workers. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black trans woman, and Sylvia Rivera, a Latina trans woman, were pioneers for queer rights and at the forefront of transformative moments in queer history. Alongside many other trans and GNC people of color and sex workers, Marsha and Sylvia were key figures in the Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969—a revolt against police violence which ignited the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. In the early 1970s, Marsha and Sylvia co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR)—one of the first transgender rights organizations, supporting homeless queer youth. Yet today, the trans and queer community continues to face the same oppression that Marsha and Sylvia fought to dismantle, and we continue to witness violence against trans and GNC people grow at alarming rates.

Tahirih’s newly formed Queer & Trans Caucus vows to educate ourselves, the organization, and our constituents on transphobia and homophobia and show up in solidarity with trans and queer communities. As advocates for survivors of gender-based violence, we recognize that too often frameworks such as the gender binary or the image of a perfect survivor are used to further marginalize trans and queer community members. In the spirit of the Stonewall Uprising, we also recognize the need for a more nuanced approach to collaboration with law enforcement in survivor cases—given the soaring rates of police violence enacted against trans people—and for the organization to improve how we address and affirm the needs of LGBTQ+ survivors.

Tahirih pledges our support for all members of the queer and trans community. We recognize that we must transform our work and the society in which we live in order to dismantle systems of oppression and advance gender equality, racial justice, and social equity for all.

In solidarity,
Tahirih’s Queer & Trans Caucus