When Transgender Law Center and a national coalition comprised primarily of Black, indigenous, and migrant trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming leaders launched the Trans Agenda for Liberation in March, we knew it had to speak to the unprecedented moment we all found ourselves in.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given everyone a glimpse into what trans and gender nonconforming people knew all too well – our local, state, and federal governments fail to protect far too many of us. Those of us who have been in the trans liberation movement for decades know what it is like to navigate a crisis without a safety net.
We are all we’ve got. And we are stronger than we have ever been.
Through our COVID-19 Virtual Gathering Series, trans and gender nonconforming leaders spoke to the critical actions being taken locally and nationally to ensure we had access to health care and safe housing. And while we charted a new course as a result of a pandemic, we leaned on the knowledge of our elders.
As we witnessed the horrifying state-sanctioned violence perpetuated by police departments across the country that terrorize Black communities, we listened intently to the visions of a new world being given form by Black trans and gender nonconforming people, primarily young people, in Minneapolis. We mourned the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and others, and looked towards the first pillar of our Trans Agenda, Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes Leading and Living Fiercely for answers. As the country grapples with what defunding the police means, the Trans Agenda has been our North Star.
These last few months have brought as much grief as they have hope. We have moved from crisis to crisis, caring for our communities while caring for ourselves, and all the while finding new co-conspirators along the way. Decades ago, Black, indigenous, and migrant trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming leaders built the organizations we see today on shoestring budgets. While others first learned of mutual aid as a result of COVID-19, trans and gender nonconforming people have always practiced interdependence and redistribution as a means to survive.
That is why, when we received a three million dollar gift from MacKenzie Scott, our first reaction was largely disbelief.
The news came on the heels of a proposed rule from the department of Housing and Urban Development that denies access to safe and secure housing for trans and gender nonconforming people – often times the only thing that stands between us and deadly violence. We were commemorating the birthday of Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells with her parents by asking our followers on social media to direct donations to House of Tulip and Morris Home, spaces in which trans women, particular Black trans women, could feel safe.
Three million dollars is the largest single gift Transgender Law Center has ever received. The other gifts made by MacKenzie Scott are some of the largest infusions of funds to trans organizations that have ever happened. She gave 116 organizations 1.7 billion dollars because she has “a conviction that people who have experience with inequities are the ones best equipped to design solutions.”
I have reflected since on what this gift means for Transgender Law Center and broadly, the trans liberation movement. For TLC, it means our North Star, the Trans Agenda for Liberation, will guide us through these difficult times. The Trans Agenda for Liberation is a living document scribed with the wisdom and dreams of trans and gender nonconforming people who did not wait for anyone to give us permission to lead.
For our movement, it means we take every opportunity we can to safeguard the future we all deserve to live in. One in which we are all free.
– Kris Hayashi, August 2020