Trans Agenda for Liberation: Pillar 2Beloved Home
Defining The Problem
As the stewards of this pillar of the Trans Agenda for Liberation, we are Navajo and Assiniboine, from Zimbabwe, Hawai’i, Mexico, Lebanon, Japan, Nigeria, Borinquen, Sāmoa, Korea, and from endless lineages. We are Black, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian, Latinx, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Arab and migrant transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and Indigenous two-spirit people.
We are people in pursuit of a dream where we thrive, but end up in a country that wants us dead for our faith, our heritage, and our gender identity.
Forced migration is violent. The colonization and genocide of Indigenous people and the enslavement of Black indigenous people of Africa to enrich the coffers of the Western Europe and the United States are examples of forced migration and a pattern of violent Western imperialism that has robbed us of our land and culture around the world.
Transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary people who flee from Africa, Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean are escaping hunger, poverty, crime, and war, coupled with transphobia, homophobia, religious persecution, and misogyny. As we migrate, we will experience more transphobia, homophobia, and misogyny, in addition to anti-Black racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia that make us vulnerable to violence and death. What’s more, the climate crisis, which is fueled and worsened by corporate greed and exploitation, is forcibly displacing millions from our homes around the world. Though poor people, Black, Indigenous, people of color, island communities, and communities from the Global South have had the least to do with the climate crisis, we continue to experience the worst of its effects.
And yet, if we leave our communities to seek a new home and find belonging, we are caged, criminalized, abused, and sadly in many cases killed. Through the use of a criminalization framework that includes mass incarceration and solitary confinement, the legal system is weaponized and used to systemically deny us any venues of relief. Black migrants are disproportionately subject to violence, terrorized by the double-edged sword of the immigration and criminal legal system. These systems that harm us continue to benefit from our imprisonment and avoid accountability.
Those of us that survive these state-sanctioned horrors are left with few resources to recover from the trauma of leaving our homes and being incarcerated. Transgender, gender non-conforming, and nonbinary migrants, especially those from Black communities, are rendered invisible in the mainstream U.S. immigration narrative as well as organizing and movement-building strategies. This translates to policy and litigation goals that cannot and do not reflect the experience of those most impacted. These goals and strategies are often US-centric, not taking into account how US imperialism fuels forced migration and displacement. These policy and litigation goals often focus solely on legalization, and the narrative is driven by the economic benefits of immigration, making our lives only as worthy as our ability to engage in labor.
Defining The Strategy
A beloved home represents the physical structure of a shelter, a home, but also encompasses the deep connection with land, ancestors, family, community, and ability to thrive. We demand a world in which Indigenous cultural practices, land and body sovereignty are respected, where transgender migrants, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and two-spirit people are never forced to leave our homes, and where we have the freedom of movement to seek out our own belonging and spiritual traditions and in which Black people everywhere are free and liberated.
We purposefully bring together transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and two-spirit people working within the movements for Indigenous sovereignty, migrant justice, and climate justice in order to create a holistic approach to our relationship to the concept of home that is multilayered and addresses the complexities of living at the center of multiple systems of oppression. We center those of us who’ve been living in the shadows, fleeing for their lives, and searching for refuge without any recognition — in order to create a more expansive room, so that all of us can find a home within.
While we target governmental structures like the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration & Customs Enforcement, and U.S. Border Patrol, we also understand that movements for LGBTQ equality, Indigenous sovereignty, migrant justice, racial equity, and climate justice hold access to power and resources that must be redistributed to center Native American, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian, Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Arab, and migrant transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and two spirit peoples.
We are Black, Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian, Latinx, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Arab and migrant transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and Indigenous two-spirit people who experience widespread poverty, domestic violence, police violence, forced migration and discrimination in healthcare, housing and employment.
We are the Indigenous two-spirit, trans, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary people who’ve had our lands forcibly taken and destroyed with pollutants. All across Native nations, our Indigenous family experience poverty and violence with little visibility. We are the people who’ve had our island nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean bombed and illegally annexed. We are the people still fighting to preserve our languages and our cultures. We are the people who had to flee our homelands in the African continent, only to encounter violence from other migrants and a hostile immigration system intent on killing us. We are the people who’ve had our homes invaded by American soldiers, our people assaulted and killed, for so-called “American freedom.”
Transnational adoptees are displaced from our homelands and then forced to adapt to the cultural customs of colonizing countries. Our trauma leads us to be ensnared in the immigration and criminal legal systems, especially when we are thrown out of our adoptive homes after coming out as transgender, gender nonconforming, or nonbinary.
And yet, we are often excluded from the LGBTQ community and the broader movements for racial, economic and social justice efforts. We are rarely valued as the political, cultural, and spiritual leaders we are. We are often forced to choose between our cultural practices and inclusion in the Black, Indigenous, and LGBTQ communities.
We are also not immune to internalizing oppression and perpetuating biases. Colonialism and white supremacy have caused us to draw divides between us. We have moved away from seeing ourselves as relatives in struggle together. Many have become complacent with perpetuating anti-Black racism, homophobia, and transphobia, and do not acknowledge the ways in which they benefit from these systems of oppression. Many people similarly have yet to reckon with their role as settlers on Native lands.
Free Us All
We demand an end to all forms of immigration detention, incarceration, criminalization, and deportation of transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and queer migrants and call for the complete abolition of immigration enforcement, police, detention centers, jails, and prisons.
Trust Our Leadership
We demand that the LGBTQ movement value the unique skills, needs, and cultural practices of Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian, Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Arab, and migrant transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and Indigenous two-spirit people. The days of our leadership only being included for land acknowledgement as if we are people from the past are over. The days of our presence and leadership being overlooked, an afterthought or tokenized must come to an end. We are alive – some of us are surviving, and some of us are thriving, but nonetheless we demand not only a seat at the table, but be positioned in key decision making roles and structures.
Respect Our Land and Self-Determination
We demand bold climate action that phases out coal, oil, and gas, stops dirty pipelines and other polluting industries from destroying our resources, that does not give corporations carte blanche to exploit and pollute our land, and that respects Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination.
A Call to Action for Philanthropy
We call for philanthropy to commit to investing in our leadership and needs. Tangible, measurable actions are needed in response to actions that leave our community vulnerable, victims of deadly interpersonal and state violence.
We demand more funding to strengthen our position as visionary leaders on the front lines of various movements. While in recent years funding has increased to trans communities, it falls far short of what our communities need. The 2018 Tracking Report: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Grantmaking by U.S. Foundations reports that for every $100 awarded by US foundations, only 4¢ focuses on trans communities. Furthermore, this support often excludes Black, Indigenous, and people of color led groups or grassroots groups without 501c3 status who are often at the forefront of trans movements for indigenous sovereignty, migrant justice, and climate justice. Trans Black, Indigenous, and people of color have been leading the fight for trans liberation for generations, with limited funds and now more than ever need multi-year, general operating support alongside rapid response funding.
Be Our Co-Conspirators
We call on LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights movements to anchor their work in Black liberation and engage in active solidarity with Black transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and queer migrants migrants by prioritizing our survival, our presence, and leadership. We need to hold each other accountable in the movement to end anti-Black racism both within and outside of our communities.
Respect Our Homes
We demand a world in which housing is a right and a world in which our beloved homes are treated with respect and reverence. A world in which Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian, Black, Latinx, Middle Eastern, South Asian, Arab, and migrant transgender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, and Indigenous two-spirit people thrive alongside our community.
Trust Our Leadership
Problem: The leadership of Black trans women and Black trans femmes requires more culturally affirming institutional support, individual encouragement, and financial sponsorship.
Strategy: Because of the unique oppression, transmisogynoir, that Black trans women and Black trans femmes face, we are best situated to devise and lead solutions to issues specific to their lived experience. American Black trans women and Black trans femmes must be trusted in order to end this country’s legacy of chattel slavery, policing, gender criminalization, and capitalism. Migrant Black trans women and Black trans femmes should be at the forefront of organizing for migrant freedom. All organizations, conferences, institutes, and funding gatherings, particularly those involving LGBTQ+ and racial justice organizations, should invest in and trust Black trans women and Black trans femmes. Leadership skills-building provides opportunities for new leadership and innovative ideas that focus specifically on their communities while increasing access to more livable wages and a more sustainable income. It is particularly imperative to invest in young Black trans girls and Black trans femmes as well as our fierce elders. There is much to learn from their collective practices of sustainability and innovation.
Recognize Our Names and Genders
Problem: Black trans women and Black trans femmes are often harassed in public spaces because of our gender presentation. Black trans women and Black trans femmes are more vulnerable to violence without equitable, low-cost access to updating identity documents.
Strategy: We demand that all places of worship including churches, synagogues, and mosques, and spaces like barbershops, hair salons, gyms, and public pools begin to foster more healthy dialogue about the importance of gender diversity in order to make these environments safe, affirming, and nurturing for Black trans women and Black trans femmes. Black trans women and Black trans femmes should be able to navigate essential systems of housing, medical care, and employment that require identity documents.
Tell Our Stories
Problem: One way dominant cultures have long violently dismissed Black trans women and Black trans femmes and our issues is by limiting public information that normalizes our bodies and lives. We recognize that visibility in mass media alone will not solve many of the interpersonal and structural inequities that Black trans women and Black trans femmes face. Without public knowledge of the history of colonization we cannot address the impacts of this county’s criminalization of gender non-conformity and Blackness.
Strategy: Black trans women and Black trans femmes have been a part of African and American cultures since before colonization. Media institutions shape our narratives and by extension, our cultures. Hire and train Black trans women and Black trans femmes as journalists, news anchors, news producers, filmmakers, historians, and writers. Elevate the platforms we have built on our own and concede platforms that bar our representation. There should not be media about Black people or trans people without Black trans women and Black trans femmes.
Problem: 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. We demand that funding for hate crimes legislation be diverted to restorative justice community-centered initiatives. Prisons, jails, and law enforcement in the U.S fail to keep Black trans women and Black trans femmes safe, as they also fail to keep Black communities safe at large. Black trans women and Black trans femmes have reported escalating violence from cisgender men. Particularly within Black communities, we recognize the structural impacts of joblessness, homelessness, trauma, and violence from the state that make Black trans women and Black trans femmes more vulnerable to harm at the hands of Black cisgender men and boys. Because we recognize these structural causes, as well as interpersonal issues of transphobia and misogynoir, we advocate for community-based alternatives and accountability measures.
Strategy: Restorative and transformative justice practices are collective ways to address harm within communities that do not rely on the state. Everyone, even people who cause harm to Black trans women and Black trans femmes, deserves justice that transforms, not punishes. We are in solidarity with organizations and collectives that encourage exploration of these approaches through policy and community practices.
Heal Us, Don’t Harm Us
Problem: Black trans women and Black trans femmes experience disproportionately high levels of daily violence and need increased mental health support, yet often experience further violence when seeking that support.
Strategy: Black trans women and Black trans femmes have created and sustained networks of healing in our communities in the absence of state support. Mental health institutions, which are disproportionately white-led and white-centered, should resource scholarships and career development pipelines for Black trans women and Black trans femmes. We are calling for a shift in the mental health profession in the U.S. to directly support Black trans women and Black trans femmes by advocating for local, state, and federal efforts that will increase access to mental health treatment and address the health disparities that LGBTQ individuals experience.
Honor Our Legacies
Problem: Cities and counties continue to perpetrate a range of harms and violence against Black trans women and Black trans femmes, from criminalization and incarceration to murder. We are advocating for Black trans women and Black trans femmes’ lives who have been lost, those who have been harmed by state-sanctioned violence, and those who have resisted.
Strategy: Public commemoration honoring the lives of Black trans women and Black trans femmes is an acknowledgment of accountability from city and county governments that they contribute to anti-trans violence. Public commemorations honoring the lives of Black trans women and Black trans femmes can be influential places of mourning, community organizing, and celebration.
Problem: There are currently no major national surveys conducted by the government that ask about both an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. The Census Bureau, early in 2017, rescinded plans to include these measures. Not only will LGBTQ people be excluded from the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey, we remain invisible on two other major government surveys: the Current Population Survey, which the Department of Labor uses to track employment, and the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which helps measure government-assistance programs. The Census plays a critical role in directing the allocation of federal funding.
Strategy: Collecting a Black Trans Census is a key tool towards building community, especially reaching our siblings who are inside of cages. We prioritize reaching Black trans women and Black trans femmes who are incarcerated in order to reduce isolation on the inside, to curb violence that is felt when someone appears to be abandoned, and to reduce seclusion felt by Black trans women and Black trans femmes who are in solitary confinement. One of the ways that we can continue to build people power is to continually broaden our networks. Black trans women and Black trans femmes are in all areas of the U.S. and we must reach all of our folks.
Problem: Accessible and affirming housing is a critical issue for Black trans women and Black trans femmes. In the 2015 National Trans Survey, 42% of Black respondents noted that they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. Of this group of respondents, Black transgender women outnumbered transgender men, nonbinary people, and Black respondents overall, with 51% of transgender women having experienced homelessness in their lifetime. Places like emergency shelters and domestic violence shelters have turned away Black trans women and Black trans femmes because of their gender identity and expression. Even when government-funded shelters grant access to Black trans women and Black trans femmes, they meet us with hostility and unsafe conditions.
Strategy: We reaffirm that accessible and affirming housing is a major priority for Black trans women and Black trans femmes. As we work towards sustainable housing for all trans people, we demand that all HUD-funded facilities be made affirming and accessible; which includes mandated training for all HUD staff and personnel, including at all government-funded housing facilities.
Fund Our Futures
Problem: LGBTQ+ funding is under constant threat of being rescinded under the current administration. Philanthropic funding for initiatives that directly address the violence against Black trans women and Black trans femmes is severely under-resourced. “For every $100 awarded by US foundations, only 3¢ focuses on trans communities.”
Strategy: We believe that funders and funding streams can play a fundamental role in supporting work led by Black trans women and Black trans femmes. This means philanthropic funders and organizations, as well as people in community, deciding to direct their money and resources to Black trans women and Black trans femmes’ work. Black trans women and Black trans femmes need sustainable funding streams for our organizations and training on how to build programmatic and funding sustainability. LGBTQ funders must take a leadership role in this – both by shifting funding from white-led, white-centered organizations towards groups centering Black trans women and femmes, and by ensuring that their boards and staff reflect the communities they fund.
End Solitary Confinement
Problem: In many jurisdictions, incarcerated trans people are placed in solitary confinement with little connection to the outside world. Solitary confinement increases isolation and vulnerability for incarcerated people, especially as incarcerated trans people already face heightened violence while inside.
Strategy: Black trans women and Black trans femmes should be a protected class. We call for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to release Black trans women and Black trans femmes from custody in any event that they experience physical, mental, and emotional harm and violence while incarcerated. We call for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to end its policies of placing Black trans women and Black trans femmes, along with all trans people, in solitary confinement.
Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex
Problem: According to TLC@SONG’s The Grapevine: A Southern Trans Report, 50% of trans and gender nonconforming Southerners reported that ending money bail was a high priority for them, in addition to 64% who want increased law enforcement accountability in their communities. Police and law enforcement target Black trans people at disproportionate rates, heightened by poverty, employment discrimination, profiling, and structural inequality. Black trans people are almost three times more likely to live in poverty than cisgender people. Judges and courts also disproportionately target Black trans people, ordering higher bail amounts based in racist stereotypes (for example, perceiving Black trans people as more dangerous or as “flight risks”). Cash bail is not “supposed” to be a punishment, as it is a pretrial measure that is only supposed to ensure that people will return to court. However, especially for Black trans people who live in poverty, cash bail is punishment that forces them into guilty pleas and often results in the inability to get out of cages. Many jurisdictions across the U.S. have also tried other measures of pretrial detention that can include e-carceration, which can include ankle monitors. Just like the cash bail system, pretrial measures are all at a cost to the person being incarcerated and to their loved ones.
Strategy: In a perfect world, we would not use cages, punitive measures, or the prison industrial complex that supports these. Reforming bail can be a strategy to emptying cages, repurposing jails, and transforming communities. As we aim for abolition of the prison industrial complex, we must first address the anti-Black, anti-poor system of cash bail.
End the Criminalization of Self Defense
Problem: Black trans women and Black trans femmes are murdered at an alarming rate, but when Black trans women and Black trans femmes fight back during an attack, we are arrested and incarcerated. Rather than seeing Black trans women and Black trans femmes as survivors of violent attacks, prosecutors file criminal charges against us and defense attorneys often advise Black trans women and Black trans femmes to plead guilty.
Strategy: We call for an end to the criminalization of self-defense. We call for prosecutors to stop filing charges against Black trans women and Black trans femmes who defend themselves from violence. In addition, governors have the power to grant clemency to people through their executive powers. By granting clemency, governors can provide a reduction or elimination in sentence to any incarcerated person. Through granting clemency, governors can decide to release people who are criminalized for defending themselves from violence.
We are deeply grateful to the many people who generously contributed to, reviewed, and offered on Beloved Home including: Cathy Kapua, Isyss Honnen, Mattee Jim, Isa Noyola, Ola Osaze, and Emmett Schelling.