The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, the federal government’s failed response, and public panic all harm trans people in uniquely stressful and isolating ways. The federal government has failed to address the severity of this moment or protect those already made vulnerable by systemic discrimination and violence, and while some states and counties try to mitigate the harm, others states like Idaho and Arizona use this as an opportunity to further a transphobic agenda.   

Rooted in the wisdom of trans elders and with the knowledge attained through our communitydriven projects, Transgender Law Center (TLC) is launching a weekly video call series on how trans people can support each other and advocate at a local, state, and federal level for the care, resources, and support they deserve.  

The first call will stream on TLC’s Facebook page this Friday at 2pm PT/4pm CT/5pm ET.   

“We must address what this pandemic means for trans migrants, Black and brown trans women, people who are incarcerated, disabled trans folks, people living with HIV, elders, youth, low-income trans people, and other members of our community most impacted by this crisis,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “As we assess community needs and long-term movement response, these video calls will draw on the strength and knowledge of trans leaders across the country to provide an immediate opportunity to connect and build power as trans people.”  

Earlier this week, TLC joined the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) in calling for the release of all currently detained migrants and the closure of all detention centers as this crisis grows.  

“Trans people deserve the freedom to thrive, and we demand a world without cages now,” said Ola Osaze, director of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project housed at TLC. “In the face of an unprecedented and growing global health emergency that only compounds the severe abuses of the past, we demand that all detained people are released immediately, that detention centers are shut down, and that all kinds of immigration enforcement activities be barred, especially any happening where someone may be seeking care for Coronavirus.”

Sebastian Margaret of TLC’s Disability Project (DP) believes this is a moment in which justice movements must not only “commit to the redistribution of resources and fund disabled, Deaf and ill BIPOC and working class led collective care, but vigilant and outspoken be about the eugenics based practices, policies and attitudes that are being operationalized under the veil of ‘public health’. That this crisis leveraged is to further stoke a deep, long held fear and loathing of disabled Deaf, sick and poor communities is coincidental not – it’s ableism in motion, the grease and fuel of white supremacy, anti-black racism, misogyny transphobia and much so more.”  

They add that during public health crises thinly veiled ableism “fundamentally erodes disabled, Deaf and ill folks’ right to self-determination, body autonomy, appropriate care and seeks to deny us our right to life. Our lives are in danger in not from a global virus alone but the ableism from it everywhere emboldens.”  

The Disability Project is led by a multi-racial, cross-class, cross-disability advisory board of transgender and gender nonconforming people, and seeks to break isolation, grow connection, and build leadership within trans disability/Deaf/chronically ill communities. DP advisory board member Lydia X. Z . Brown states, “Sick and disabled people at the margins of the margins have always been working against ableism fueled by and intricately interconnected with white supremacy, anti-trans oppression, and other violent systems that work overtime to kill us. Disabled, mad, neurodivergent, and crip brilliance offers deep wisdom for those now turning to collective care, mutual aid, and access-centered organizing as a means for all our survival.” 

TLC’s Director of Evaluation and Strategic Initiatives Cecilia Chung explains, “Transgender women of color living with HIV have always had to be our own advocates. In our  2018 needs assessment of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) people living with HIV, we learned that over half of the respondents had experienced incarceration in their lifetime and 36% of respondents reported going 6 months or more without care. A health response from local, state and federal governments must include a plan to release those who are medically vulnerable and to ensure TGNC people access to free health care without fear. We demand a world where the health care we need is readily available, and where our bodies, HIV statuses, disabilities, and viral loads are no longer policed and criminalized.”  

The federal government’s failed response to this pandemic brings into sharp focus the deep policy, cultural, and social change needed for our communities to survive and thrive. TLC’s Virtual Community Gatherings are a way to stay closely connected during an isolating time and to provide community led solutions to a global crisis that center the voices, needs, leadership, and deep and enduring wisdom of trans people. Next week, Transgender Law Center and a national coalition of trans leaders will launch a Trans Agenda for Liberation to serve as a community-led guide towards the world trans and gender nonconforming people deserve. The Trans Agenda will serve as a framework for trans response to global crises like this.