Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity's.
November 20, 2021, is the 22nd anniversary of Trans Day of Resilience. When I reflect on what has changed in the two-plus decades of this celebration, what I land on is only the fact that we’re talking about trans rights and liberation more frequently. Beyond that, I still see a list of 375 trans people who have been killed in 2021, and those are just the names that have been reported. When people continue to die because of who they are — because of their identity — not much has changed.
That’s not to say I’m not hopeful, because I am, and that’s why I do the work that I do. I’m hopeful for a day when people of color, and in particular Black trans people, aren’t automatically born into many layers of generational trauma that leave them no choice but to be resilient, which is barely a half-step up from surviving (if a step at all). I’m hopeful for a day when our resilience can grow and expand, as mine has over the years.
A few years back, my resilience looked like: handle your shit, compartmentalize and keep it moving. Now, it looks like taking the time to really dig into the how and why of what has happened. I want that for all Black people, especially Black women, femmes and trans people who have historically not been afforded the time and space to heal.
Right now, Black trans leaders are not protected. Our voices may be louder than in the past, but every day that we open our mouths we are still putting a target on our back. Trans people are not public about their personal lives because they know it is only a matter of time before it will be weaponized against them. We don’t hear about, read about or see trans people’s partners, kids or chosen families because doing so always comes back to haunt us.
From this lack of visibility, trans youth internalize the idea that a consequence of being who you are is that it’s going to be lonely, when in fact that’s not actually the case. Rather, the more in the spotlight trans people are, the more they are forced to not keep what’s close to them in direct sight, but more in the periphery, so that only people who are really paying attention might pick it up. And this is a part of the resiliency of now — but it’s an unnecessary part. It doesn’t have to be this way. Our movement leaders like Miss Major shouldn’t need to be underground. Our trans young people should see that they don’t have to live short lives in the shadows.
I know there is a not-too-distant future when we as Black trans people can all thrive and move beyond resilience. In that future, I imagine us at a beach. There we are, all just hanging out and being ourselves. Some of us are in the water, some are not, but many of us are gazing directly into the vastness of the ocean. We smell lilacs and lavender, and are eating chunks of fresh pineapple on a blanket. Together, we listen to the peaceful sounds of the tide coming in and out, observing how big the next wave will be based on how close to shore it breaks. Our nervous systems are calm, shoulders relaxed and the warmth of the sun envelops us like a blanket that’s just the right temperature. There is a felt but unseen energy of kindness and love between us all.
This is where you can find me in the future. Join me?