It ought to be common knowledge by now that, without the contributions of black trans women, there would be no gay rights movement in the U.S. Still, they remain the most marginalized and vilified of all LBGTQ groups, a fact that is most evident in the disturbingly high rate of black trans women being killed.
Actress Laverne Cox spoke on the issue ahead of this year’s World Pride celebration, which honors the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City. In an interview with BuzzFeed News’s Twitter morning show AM to DM, the Emmy-award winning actress said, “Your attraction to me as a trans woman is not a reason to kill me.”
“There’s this whole sort of myth that trans women are out there tricking people, that they deserve to be murdered, and that’s not the case,” Cox said.
“There’s been a market for trans women in the realms of dating and sex work for a very long time,” she added. “We don’t have to trick anyone.”
More black trans women have been killed in the past year than any year on record, with 11 murdered in just the first six months of 2019. The issue has become so pronounced that it was even mentioned by New Jersey senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker this week during the first night of the Democratic debates.
As ACLU staff attorney Chase Strangio told The Root earlier this year, black trans women suffer systemic discrimination in greater proportion and intensity than other groups.
“We have people being funneled into prisons and jails because of employment discrimination, housing discrimination, family rejection and other factors that lead people to have criminal legal system involvement,” Strangio said.
These factors, like high rates of homelessness and job discrimination, also leave them vulnerable to violence.
Cox noted that this crisis comes at a time when black trans women are gaining more visibility and recognition in other areas of public life.
“For a long time I was talking about [the violence] all the time and just felt I was existing in this space of death, constantly, and it was insanely depressing,” Cox told BuzzFeed. “And so I try to be in a ‘both and’ place, given the place of celebrating Indya Moore being on the cover of Elle magazine and Janet Mock having this landmark deal at Netflix.”
The celebrated actress and advocate pointed to the importance of cis women engaging men in conversations about trans rights and personhood: “We have to lift the stigma around attraction to trans people, and we have to lift the stigma around trans people existing.”