As the title suggests, everything on this blog concerns violence against trans women.
The Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project is a trans feminist project addressing issues of systematic, institutional and interpersonal violence and oppression experienced by trans women (those who were coercively assigned male at birth and identify or are identified as women/female) across multiple identities (e.g., race, class, dis/ability, citizen-status, nationality, sexuality, age, HIV status, and form, status, or age of transition, etc.)
Ida Hammer is a writer and social justice communicator. She organizes the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project. She presents workshops and trainings on cis privilege and being a trans ally. She's also involved in organizing against sexualized violence. She's a proud dyke-identified trans woman and an organizer of the New York City Dyke March.
i made this comic after a series of frustrating conversations in which dudes told me to ‘learn to take a joke’ instead of getting upset about transphobia in the media. i laugh a lot, but i’m not gonna laugh at anything that dehumanizes me. because its not just a show, its my whole life. these are just some moments from the last ten years. i could go on. but also, yay comics! :D
TWOCC was established almost one year ago after the brutal murder of Islan Nettles, a black trans woman in New York City. Since then we have brought visibility to this case and uplifted the narratives of struggle and resilience from our communities. From our multiple appearances at conferences, to our various talks, and our numerous accountability sessions we have created a new space for trans women of color leadership in the movement.
We are an organizing collective, NOT a registered non-profit. We rely on grassroots fundraising to sustain the work. Trans women of color have historically — and continue to — put our bodies on the line for justice. The amount of unpaid emotional, physical, and psychological labor we do for our movements is astronomical. We are tired of the lip service that our allies give to trans women of color issues. We believe that the role of allies in our movement is to fund us so that we can do the work for ourselves! This is a fundraising campaign lead by allies to support our work. We need YOUR change, to make our own!
Happy Birthday, Marsha! tells the story of legendary best friends, Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and the bold everyday decisions they made that helped spark the 1969 Stonewall riots.
When Marsha and Sylvia, self-proclaimed “street queens” – homeless, Black & Latina trans women – ignite the Stonewall Rebellion, they change LGBT politics forever. It’s a hot summer day in June, 1969. Marsha throws a party, but no one shows up. Meanwhile, Sylvia gets stoned and forgets the party after unsuccessfully introducing her lover to her family. Throughout the difficult day, the friends struggle with harassment and alienation before converging at the Stonewall Inn to finally celebrate Marsha’s birth. Unbeknownst to them, the NYPD has plans to raid the bar that night. Happy Birthday, Marsha! is the story of two brave best friends and the everyday decisions they made that changed the course of history.
Why are we making Happy Birthday, Marsha?
We truly believe how we tell the stories of our heroes matters, so we are drawing upon our community to make this film because we have an opportunity to make a movie written, directed and produced by people living Sylvia & Marsha’s legacy through our own work. It’s been 45 years since the Stonewall rebellion yet the leading role that street queens, trans women of color and gender non-conforming people had during the riots hasn’t received the recognition it deserves. By making Happy Birthday, Marsha! we are seeking to change that, but we need your help to make it happen.
In her research on shelters for women, Mirha-Soleil Ross discovered that the refusal of services to a [trans] woman was justified on the grounds of the “safety” and comfort level of the other women residents. Ross argues that this concern over “safety” does not extend to [trans] women: “If I have fear and concerns for anyone’s safety in a shelter, it is for an isolated [trans] woman, not for a [cis woman] who doesn’t have to prove to anyone that she is a woman.”
As Ross so eloquently explains, this rationale absolves shelters of their responsibility in educating themselves and their residents about the diversity of women’s lives:
Even the argument that [trans] women should be excluded for their own safety is not acceptable on a long term basis. Just like any other form of prejudice and discrimination, if some [cis] women are threatening the safety of a [trans] woman because she is [trans], it should be dealt with immediately and efficiently. The [cis] women should be confronted about their own ignorance and violence. I don’t see why [trans] women should be restricted from access to such vital services because of somebody else’s transphobia and hatred.
Like the policies in homeless youth shelters, the [trans woman] in question is singled out as the “cause” of this “problem,” or the reason [cis] women in the shelter will not feel safe. This focuses attention on the [trans woman] and neglects the real issue at hand: the provision of services to those in need.
Some group of researchers just sent me mail on here to invite me to participate in their study about trans peoples’ Marginalization, Mental Health, and Empowerment — offering a “1 in 25 chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.”
I sent them quite the response.
Let me put this out there: I have been…
Recently, trans bro Jack Halberstam wrote an article called You Are Triggering me! The Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger and Trauma. It is rife with crappy Monty Python references and historical inaccuracies. The main thrust of the article is that trigger warnings used by young people…
Here we have the fictional persecution of the cis privileged set against the backdrop of the actual, lived reality of oppression and violence as it is experienced by trans women (of color).
Trans people, especially trans women of color, do not have the institutional power to deny cis people access to resources like housing, jobs, health care, public accommodations, education, social services, or general physical safety and mental wellbeing. Cis people are not at risk of unprovoked harassment, malice, or violence from trans women of color, or other trans people.
Yet these are all issues that many trans women of color and poor trans women generally experience everyday from cis people as a collective, if not individually. Yet we see that many of those with cis privilege are quick to complain when trans people and their allies speak out against this violence and oppression. This only proves that many of those with cis privilege are invested in and committed to defending their stake in the continued systematic enforcement of their privilege over trans women of color by use of violence and oppression.
Even in the progressive Bay Area, transgender people face rampant violence and discrimination, an issue we covered in-depth in last year’s feature “Transphobia.” Across the…
In 1979, Black women were being murdered in Boston. The murders started in January and by April six cis women had been killed. By June, 13 cis women were dead, 12 Black and one White.
Boston Police showed little interest taking the murders of Black cis women they alleged to be prostitutes seriously. So the Combahee River Collective, a Boston Black feminist organization, other Third World feminists as well as White antiracist feminists all with a political understanding of how violence against women is both racialized and sexualized started to organized and rally around the murders of these cis women. Out of this the group CRISIS, with a focus on self-help and community involvement, and the Coalition for Women’s Safety, a coalition of Black, Latin@ and White working to develop programs for community safety, were formed.
Throughout the organizing, Black and Third World feminists encountered conflicts with how the murders were being narrowly framed. Some within the community treated the murders as purely racial, downplaying or ignoring the obvious gendered and sexualized aspects of these killings. And male paternalism contributed to the proposal for Black men “to protect their women.” There were also racial barriers that complicated alliance building between White and Black women over the murders.
To address these and other issues concerning the political consciousness within the communities affected by the murders, the Combahee River Collective produced a pamphlet addressing the question: “Why did these women die?”:
In the Black community the murders have often been talked about as solely racial or racist crimes. It’s true that the police and media response has been typically racist. It’s true that the victims were all Black and that Black people have always been targets of racist violence in this society, but they were also all women. Our sisters died because they were women just as surely as they died because they were Black. If the murders were only racial, young teen-age boys and older Black men might also have been unfortunate victims. They might now be petrified to walk the streets as women have always been.
The pamphlet goes on to give some statistics and notes:
These statistics apply to all women: Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, old, young, rich, poor and in between. We’ve got to understand that violence against us as women cuts across all racial, ethnic and class lines. This doesn’t mean that violence against Third World women does not have a racial as well as sexual cause. Both our race and sex lead to violence against us.
It’s now 35 years later and I see strong parallels between the sort of organizing that took place around those 13 women and the sort of organizing we need to be doing around the murder and violence taking place against trans women of color.
Within the LGBT community the murders of trans people are talked about like they are solely cissexist or anti-trans based. But like the Combahee River Collective’s analysis of the Boston murders of Black cis women, we need to have an analysis that accounts for the fact that almost all murdered trans people are women or on otherwise on the trans female spectrum, and that the vast majority are women of color. It’s important that we understand that trans people are being targeted as much for their gender identity and race as for the fact that they are also trans.
While the analysis of LGBT organizations tends to be too narrow, the attention these murders get from most feminist and antiracist organizations is virtually nonexistence. The framing of these these murders as simply due to the victims’ transness or sexuality is not helpful to the extent that it lets feminist and antiracist organizers off the hook by being able to say it is only a “trans issue” as opposed to also a women’s issue or a racial issue.
When it comes to violence against trans women, it’s time we start taking the question “Why did they die?” more seriously. We need to move beyond events like “Trans Day of Remembrance” that intentionally erase the gendered, racialized and classed analysis of why certain trans people are being killed. Even “Trans Day of Action,” while including an analysis of race and class, is often seen by participants and onlookers as solely a trans march, as opposed to also being a women’s march and a people of color march.
Even suggesting that organizing center trans women of color specifically is a radical notion. This doesn’t mean that White trans people, trans men and nonbinary people don’t also experience violence and oppression. Of course they do. But I also think there is a serious danger of falling into the trap of looking at anti-trans violence in primarily race- and/or gender-neutral terms. I think this is where the need for a trans feminism of color/antiracist trans feminism comes in.
We also need to move beyond “transphobia” as the way of framing anti-trans violence. Transphobia denotes an individual prejudice and has a taint of victim blaming that reinforces concepts like “trans panic.” I suggest we replace this with “cissexism,” which is better at denoting what is actually an issue of cis power, not just prejudice or a negative attitude about trans people.