Trans Agenda for Liberation: Pillar 1

Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes: Leading & Living Fiercely

Defining The Problem

We want a world where Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes are thriving and leading solutions for social, economic, and political change.

Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes’s quality of life is tied to both cultural attitudes and institutional policies. Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes, existing at multiple intersections of oppression, are uniquely singled out for criminalization by the police and government. Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes experience disproportionately higher rates of housing insecurity, police violence, and under/unemployment due to discrimination based in their perceived gender and race. While all transgender women of color are more marginalized than their peers, we must begin by addressing Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes because of the urgent need to end the epidemic of anti-Black violence. When Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes are free to live and lead, all transgender women of color, all Black people, all transgender people, and ultimately all people will be free.

Defining The Strategy

We demand an end to the horrific, multifaceted, and disproportionate deadly violence against Black Trans Women and Femmes.

Black Trans Women and Femmes must be trusted to lead movements the way we live our lives: fiercely.

We recognize that change will only come when our allies and supporters rally together for our collective liberation. Collective liberation requires not just policy & legal change but the shifting of hearts and attitudes about the value of Black trans lives. In order to shift the culture, we must do intra-community work with cisgender allies in Black communities.

Here, we present a collection of demands to foreground a better future for Black Trans Women and Femmes.

Defining Violence

We use “Black Trans Women & Black Trans Femmes” to include a broad range of people of African descent who do not agree with being coercively assigned male at birth, including but not limited to: binary transgender women, nonbinary trans-feminine people, intersex trans women and intersex trans feminine people.

We must broaden our definition of violence. Although violence can look like hate speech, discrimination, and intimate partner violence, it is not limited to only physical, interpersonal experiences. To understand the multi-faceted experiences of Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes, we must include violence caused by government institutions, like Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), which enforce dominant systems of oppression.

Transmisogynoir, a term coined by writer Trudy as the specific oppression of Black trans feminine people where anti-Blackness, cissexism, and misogyny form a unique system of oppression. The term comes from “misogynoir” coined by Black Queer feminist Moya Bailey, who created the term to address the unique experience of misogyny directed toward Black cis women in American visual and popular culture. The concept is grounded in the theory of intersectionality, which analyzes how various social identities such as race, gender, class, and sexual orientation interrelate in systems of oppression.

Cissexism is a set of beliefs, assumptions, and attitudes that cis people’s gender identities and expressions are superior to those of trans people and is one of the producers of discrimination against trans people.

Criminalization is the process by which behaviors or actions or sets of actions are made “criminal” by making them illegal or against the law.
Policing is the social relationship comprised of a set of practices that are used by the state to enforce law and social control through the use of force.

Pretrial Detention or Pretrial Incarceration occurs when someone is accused of a “crime” and is held in jail before the trial has taken place.

Demands

Trust Our Leadership

Prioritize Black trans women and Black trans femmes as leaders. We must invest in skills-building opportunities through increased funding for current positions and the reallocation of resources to create new leadership opportunities.

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

We demand our gender identities be honored and protected in public and private spaces. We call on city and local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices to allow anyone to self-attest to their name and gender marker, including genders besides male or female or the option to decline to specify a gender designation.

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

We demand multi-platform, culturally affirming public education on our histories/herstories/queer-stories of trans women across cultures, including in television, movies, music, and books.

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.

Take Accountability

We call on Black cisgender masculine people of all ages who cause us harm to educate themselves on our lives and focus on their own healing. We call on our governments to stop putting Black men and boys in cages and stop relying on hate crime legislation, which uses prisons, jails, and punishment, to avoid addressing social issues at the root of violence.

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

We call on state-licensing institutions within the mental health profession to require specific training hours for all mental health professionals on effectively supporting Black trans women and Black trans femmes.

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

We demand that city and county offices of arts and culture commission public commemorations of Black trans women and Black trans femmes killed under their watch. City and county offices of arts and culture must prioritize Black trans women and Black trans femme artists and collaborators to make these commemorations.

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.

Count Us

We demand funding for a Black Trans Census that must be collected by Black trans people. This Census will include storytelling and the experiences of our Black trans siblings who have been torn from their communities and locked up by the government.

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.

Shelter Us

We demand the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ensure all HUD-funded housing (including but not limited to shelters and dormitories) is accessible to and affirming of Black trans women and Black trans femmes. In addition, this is a call for all HUD-funded housing to be accessible and affirming to people with disabilities, and to not discriminate on the basis of perceived gender identity, gender expression, or ability.

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

We demand that philanthropic foundations increase funding for organizations and initiatives led by Black trans women and Black trans femmes, and create explicit funding streams for work that prioritizes Black trans women and Black trans femmes and our communities.

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

We demand the Department of Justice (DOJ) stop torturing Black trans women and Black trans femmes with solitary confinement in local, state and federal prisons, as well as in immigration detention.

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

We demand state legislatures end their systems of cash bail and pretrial detention and redistribute their profits to community-based alternatives to incarceration.

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

We demand the immediate release of all Black trans women and Black trans femmes who are detained, held pre-trial, and incarcerated merely for fighting back when being assaulted and then surviving the attack. We demand the immediate end to 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.

Trust Our Leadership

Prioritize Black trans women and Black trans femmes as leaders. We must invest in skills-building opportunities through increased funding for current positions and the reallocation of resources to create new leadership opportunities.

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

We demand our gender identities be honored and protected in public and private spaces. We call on city and local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices to allow anyone to self-attest to their name and gender marker, including genders besides male or female or the option to decline to specify a gender designation.

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

We demand multi-platform, culturally affirming public education on our histories/herstories/queer-stories of trans women across cultures, including in television, movies, music, and books.

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.

Take Accountability

We call on Black cisgender masculine people of all ages who cause us harm to educate themselves on our lives and focus on their own healing. We call on our governments to stop putting Black men and boys in cages and stop relying on hate crime legislation, which uses prisons, jails, and punishment, to avoid addressing social issues at the root of violence.

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

We call on state-licensing institutions within the mental health profession to require specific training hours for all mental health professionals on effectively supporting Black trans women and Black trans femmes.

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

We demand that city and county offices of arts and culture commission public commemorations of Black trans women and Black trans femmes killed under their watch. City and county offices of arts and culture must prioritize Black trans women and Black trans femme artists and collaborators to make these commemorations.

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.

Count Us

We demand funding for a Black Trans Census that must be collected by Black trans people. This Census will include storytelling and the experiences of our Black trans siblings who have been torn from their communities and locked up by the government.

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.

Shelter Us

We demand the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ensure all HUD-funded housing (including but not limited to shelters and dormitories) is accessible to and affirming of Black trans women and Black trans femmes. In addition, this is a call for all HUD-funded housing to be accessible and affirming to people with disabilities, and to not discriminate on the basis of perceived gender identity, gender expression, or ability.

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

We demand that philanthropic foundations increase funding for organizations and initiatives led by Black trans women and Black trans femmes, and create explicit funding streams for work that prioritizes Black trans women and Black trans femmes and our communities.

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

We demand the Department of Justice (DOJ) stop torturing Black trans women and Black trans femmes with solitary confinement in local, state and federal prisons, as well as in immigration detention.

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

We demand state legislatures end their systems of cash bail and pretrial detention and redistribute their profits to community-based alternatives to incarceration.

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

We demand the immediate release of all Black trans women and Black trans femmes who are detained, held pre-trial, and incarcerated merely for fighting back when being assaulted and then surviving the attack. We demand the immediate end to 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.

Acknowledgements

We are deeply grateful to the many people who generously contributed to, reviewed, and offered on Black Trans Women and Black Trans Femmes Leading and Living Fiercely, including: Nyla Foster, Ebony Harper, BT – Director and Founder of Trans(forming), Tre’Andre Valentine, Marisa Richmond, Raquel Willis, Kylar Broadus, Chase Strangio, and Taffy Johnson.  

About

Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation.

Contact Us

Transgender Law Center
PO Box 70976
Oakland, CA 94612-0976

phone: 510.587.9696
collect line for people in prison and detention: 510.380.8229

Media Requests
EIN (tax identification number): 05-0544006

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