The queer radical community is one that I have long identified with. Ever since I came out as queer, and later as trans*, it has been this community that I have been consistently drawn to. Regardless of what city I’m living in, I always seem to find the radical queers. I have organized with and marched along side with radical queers. From facilitating a workshop on queer activism to marching at Queer Bomb (in Austin) or the Dyke March (in Boston) to staffing a drop-in center for queer youth, I have done a lot of work with the queer community and I hope to continue. Not only because I am queer but also because these are my people and I want to work with them.
Which is why it’s so frustrating, not to mention problematic, when I’m the only trans woman of color in radical queer space. Over and over again, I find myself in a room full of cis queer women and trans men. Over and over again, I find myself in a room full of white people. The radical queer community positions itself as representative of all queer people and advocates for the needs of the queer community. It supposedly fights against those systems of power and oppression that keep all queers oppressed. And yet at the same time, trans women of color are nowhere to be seen; even though they are the most vulnerable in our community.
One has only to glance at the case of CeCe Mcdonald to see all the worst intersections and manifestation of white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism. She was arrested and is being charged with second-degree murder, the same charge as George Zimmerman, for being the victim of a hate crime and fighting back. She is being charged, basically, for being a poor, black, trans woman. And while there has been a very strong movement of people organizing to free her, this is the exception to the rule.
The last 20 reported cases of trans* murders have all been trans women of color. What, than, does this say about the radical queer community when we are not centering the needs of the most vulnerable in our organizing? How can we purport to create a fully equitable world if we are not making space for them?
The reason for all this is that transmisogyny and racism is rampant and often unchecked in radical queer spaces. From TWoC lack of presence to their lack of “desirability” to their outright exclusion, it’s clear that the radical queer community is not accountable to us. They assume that since white cis queers are oppressed, they couldn’t possibly be oppressive themselves. Somehow, they think that people’s queerness excuses or erases the other ways in which they are privileged. But this is a myth that needs to be constantly challenged. The radical queer community needs to be aware in the ways that they are being oppressive, especially when it is unintentional. They need to know that there are reasons why trans women of color don’t show up to their functions or their rallies. And its because you don’t represent us.
How many black and brown trans women need to die before you put our needs first? In April alone, there have been 3 reported murders. 3 women killed in a community that is already small and nearly invisible. Coko Williams, Clay Paige, Brandy Martell. And if these are the reported murders, can you imagine the number of unreported murders? The unclaimed bodies and forgotten names?
So I challenge you, dear radical, to put your money where your mouth is. If you are really committed to this work, put us first. Be aware of our struggles, of our triumphs. Hell, be aware of our existence! Don’t just mourn us when we are murdered, but celebrate and work with us in life. Actively participate in making this world a safer place for us.
But most of all, I challenge you to see us. To know us.
Morgan is the latest in a long line of fierce warriors. She is walking in the footsteps of Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera and her own mother to achieve the collective liberation of all peoples. She maintains her own blog, www.atriptothemorg.wordpress.com, and has been published in xQSí Magazine and The Urban Resistance among others. Morgan hopes to go to graduate school for writing and to use her poems, essays and stories to challenge, inspire and incite radical action. She also really enjoys Thai food.