Failed government response to COVID-19 demonstrates need for new, visionary leadership   

At a time where we are facing an unprecedented global health crisis, trans people are reimagining our world in extraordinary and visionary ways. While governments have failed to address the severity of this pandemic and have been inequitable in their responses, trans leaders – especially Black and brown trans women, people who are incarcerated, disabled trans people, people living with HIV, elders, youth, low-income trans people, and other members of our community – have mobilized to immediately put their collective wisdom, brilliance, and experience into action.   

Today, TLC and a national coalition of trans leaders are launching the Trans Agenda for Liberation to serve as a community-led guide towards the world trans and gender nonconforming people deserve. The Trans Agenda, developed over years of community gatherings and conversations, serves as a framework for responding to global crises like COVID-19, and more generally for rebuilding and reordering a society that for too long has marginalized and dismissed the visionary leadership and solutions of trans people. Solutions to our current global health crisis will come from those most impacted including disabled, deaf, working class, and ill Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). 

“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,” said Disability Project advisory board member, Lydia X.Z. Brown.  

The first pillar of the Trans Agenda, Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes Leading and Living Fiercely, launches today in acknowledgement of the unique and invaluable wisdom and expertise of Black trans women and Black trans femmes who, in the face of historical and ongoing discrimination and violence, are thriving and leading the solutions for social, economic, and political change in our society.  

Black trans women and Black trans femmes have led movements for justice for decades on shoestring budgets and without the support enjoyed by the larger LGB movement,” said Micky Bradford, TLC’s National Organizer. “Today we’re declaring that we’re done. We have built our own table instead of waiting to be invited to someone else’s. Black trans women and Black trans femmes must be trusted to lead our movements the way we live our lives: fiercely.”

In 2016, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported that Black transgender women accounted for 50 percent of all anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected hate violence and, as of November 2017, 84 percent of transgender murder victims were people of color and 80 percent were women. Since the 2016 election, there has been a marked increase of hate crimes against marginalized groups. 2017 was called the deadliest year on record for trans people with the average age of 30 years old for Black trans victims. In 2019, at least 18 Black transgender women were murdered that we know of.

The Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes Leading and Living Fiercely list of twelve demands commences with a call to “an end to the horrific, multifaceted, and disproportionate deadly violence against Black trans women and Black trans femmes” and acknowledges that change will only come when “our allies and supporters rally together for our collective liberation.” The pillar calls out the punitive logic implied in calling for increased hate crimes legislation by adding that “hate crimes legislation, while intended to increase safety of protected classes, only further perpetuates the criminalization of low-income communities of color and does very little to end the deadly violence against Black transgender women and Black trans femmes.”

The pillar’s demands include necessary local and federal policy changes, like the end of cash bail and pretrial detention, that have the potential to immediately reshape lives, health, and safety amid the current global health crisis. They also address  day-to-day experiences, such as the respectful recognition of names and genders by Departments of Motor Vehicles, as well as the broader cultural shifts needed for Black trans women and Black trans femmes to truly survive and thrive. The pillar also calls for increased philanthropic funding for organizations and initiatives led by Black trans women and Black trans femmes, citing that, “for every $100 awarded by US foundations, only 3¢ focuses on trans communities.” At a time when funders are mobilizing to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic, it is essential that they prioritize the direct service and policy priorities, needs, and demands of Black trans women and Black trans femmes.  

The Trans Agenda for Liberation uplifts five pillars: Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes Leading and Living Fiercely, Beloved Home, Defining Ourselves, Intergenerational Connection and Lifelong Care, and Freedom to Thrive. They will be unveiled throughout the year in partnership with the various individuals and organizations that played a part in creating them. To read the Trans Agenda for Liberation’s first pillar, Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes Leading and Living Fiercely, click here.

The five pillars of the Trans Agenda serve as a living, loving and ever-evolving roadmap for responding to new and ongoing societal crisis and inequity. Last week, in alignment with principles laid out in the Trans Agenda, TLC, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) called for the release of all currently detained migrants and the closure of all detention centers and immigration prisons as the COVID-19 crisis escalated. TLC’s Disability Project called for a rejection of the ableism inherent in public health response, a redistribution of resources to fund disabled, deaf, working class, and ill BIPOC, and a call to grow community and connection in the face of crisis.

TLC has also launched a weekly series of Virtual Community Gatherings organized around how trans people can support each other and advocate at a local, state, and federal level for the care, resources, and support they deserve in a time of crisis.