Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: So-called trans allies have dropped the ball

About four years ago, I wrote an open letter to trans women on my blog after initial charges against Islan Nettles’ murderer were dropped. I wondered why trans women’s murders received little attention as people were “rejoicing over (mostly white) queer people being able to marry and smile for photo ops in various states,” as I wrote. I’ve always wanted to update this post because though my heart was in the right place, I was still using terms like “transgendered” and honey, that ain’t cute.

Also, as I read back, it’s self-congratulatory. I was so proud of myself, a cis queer woman, for writing that piece. I cringed when I read “Yes, my sisters. I’ve said time and time again that I consider other black women to be my sisters. That sisterhood isn’t just relegated to cisgendered women and neither is my feminism.” I was back-patting myself for acknowledging someone else’s humanity and trying to single myself out as one of the “good” cis people. It was gross. It was peak ally theater and at this point, that’s the best trans folks get from cis people.

In mid-February, the Trump administration announced it wouldn’t honor Obama’s mandate that trans children be allowed to use the bathroom that best coincides with their genders. Prior to this, transgender kids were already catching hell in our schools. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 78 percent of transgender students in grades K-12 have been harassed. Additionally, 35 percent have been physically assaulted and 12 percent have experienced sexual violence. Now the Cheez-It in Chief says they can’t pee where they want.

I wrote this column on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, and as of that date, five trans women of color had been murdered. The latest victim, Chyna Gibson, was killed on Saturday and Jojo Striker was killed a mere week before that. In that old blog post, I asked, “where are the campaigns and protests for these women?” Then, I proceeded to admonish the black community for its disregard of transgender people. While it’s true that these women are often murdered by their black and POC male lovers, all of society has failed the trans community.

So-called trans allies have dropped the ball, myself included.

I challenge anyone who is reading this article to think about what they have done to help the transgender community. In this instance, social media rants don’t count. What have you risked? What resources have you provided?

Posting “woke” Facebook statuses is easy, but how often do you share fundraisers for folks to pay their bills or reach their truths? We lose our minds every time Laverne Cox whips her ponytail or Amiyah Scott bats her eyelashes, but what, if anything, would you do if you saw a transgender woman being harassed in public? Did you know there will be a protest against the Trump decision at the Georgia State Capitol on March 13 at 11 a.m.? If you’re free, are you going?

Can you answer these questions and truly be satisfied with your answer?

If not, you have work to do. If so, you still have work to do.

We have work to do until transgender people stop being under attack. When they’re free, we all get free.