June 6, 2019 at 11:52 am PST | by C Chela Demuir
50 years after Stonewall, Trans people still just want to exist

C. Chela Demuir is executive director of the Unique Women’s Coalition.

Fifty years after Stonewall and we’re still having confrontations. We were simply trying to exist then—and that’s all we want to do today: Exist! Then, they were fighting the police. Today, many of us are still fighting the police, our families and our government. Sure, some things have changed in some places and many gay and lesbian people are able to live out their dream life.

Trans people, however, still deal with a barrage of elements that keep sectors of our community in a time warp as if we were back in the 1969 Stonewall era. 

Yes, we’ve had some strides along the way. Trans people now have visibility and status on a level once only dreamed about. Some have been able to thrive in society. We have Trans professionals and homemakers, police officers, scientists, filmmakers, actors, entertainers—the gamut. We have our own Translebrities visible to the entire world. We’re able to see images of people that look like us, that identify like us on the cover of national magazines like Time, Elle and Sports Illustrated. 

There are Trans characters on TV or your mobile device screen at any given time. That’s absolutely light years ahead of the Stonewall era when you had to wear at least three articles of clothing of your born gender or police could arrest you for being in “disguise.”  

Today, Trans youth get to come into a world of ample and easily obtainable knowledge and, in some cases, access resources to assist in a healthier and informed transition. We’re able to commit and achieve higher education goals or become entrepreneurs, teachers, parents and even politicians. 

But being Trans isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. It can be hard as hell to be Trans – capitalized as a reminder of the hard journey, sometimes starting from the moment we realize “there’s something extra special about me.”

I come from a generation of Trans women who had to be stealth to be safe. If you were discovered to be other than as you presented, you’d be in danger. Many times we’d hear of Trans girls being beaten up when exposed; some moved to another neighborhood to save their lives.

In 2019, the Trans community in Los Angeles is so liberated and empowered that the majority of us don’t live in confinement. We’re living in our full colorful glory. 

Everyone should feel free to be who they are. What alarms me is that despite the powerful visibility and advancement our community makes, we’re still being killed at alarming rates. In 2018, 24 Trans women were killed; 18 were Black. This is June 2019, Pride month and we’ve already lost seven Trans women under 30 to violence.

As a younger Black Trans woman coming up, I was afraid of not being able to get to age 35 because, historically, not many made it that far. We didn’t think about growing old since that didn’t seem to be in our grasp.

The killing of Trans women says to the world we are not valuable, we are not worth life. In most of these scenarios, the killer is someone who’s had some personal time with us, who may have even said, “I love you.”  What’s even sadder is that not only did we lose a life but no one seems to be upset or outraged about this epidemic of Trans murders except Trans people.

We can’t even seem to depend on our lesbian and gay allies. They can be shady as hell to us even though we’ve been the faces and battering ram for many causes that served their interest.

It’s been 50 years since Stonewall and Trans people don’t even have 50 percent of the privilege Trans people fought so hard to give their LGB siblings.

There was nothing pre-planned about Stonewall that June 28, 1969. Those protesters were fed up. Enough was enough. Lesbian, gay and Trans people became fed up together—and they turned that anger into action.

That’s exactly what we need today. Trans Black women are the highest number noted on the Transgender Day of Remembrance list each year, we’re already fed up. But Trans people aren’t killing each other; we’re left to bury our own.

We don’t have all the answers. But answers could come from a collective effort to change what the end of this story looks like. We can all find a way to contribute—and that’s where we can start, together.

Non-Trans people have to join us—not standing behind us, but beside us. We have to have the conversations about toxic femininity and toxic masculinity and what it does to perpetuate hate.

Our government wants to erase our existence. A military ban is already in place; proper healthcare is at risk; equal pay and the choice to work with dignity seem like dreams. But we demand the basic right to EXIST!

Trans people from across the nation are organizing the first ever National Trans Visibility March in Washington, D.C. at the Capitol on Sept. 27 and 28 to stand in solidarity to demand our right to exist and call for the dismantling of the social structures that oppress us.

If the Stonewall movement means anything to you, understand that we are at that point in time once again where we have to join together in unity like our lives depend on it. This call to action needs allies locally and nationally.

For more information visit theuwc.org and transmarchondc.org.

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