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Black Trans Women Seek More Space in the Movement They Helped Start


“They don’t know the first thing about what it is to live a life like we have, and they have no comprehension as to what it is we suffer and go through,” said Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, one of the last surviving leaders of the Stonewall uprising. “So I myself do not participate in groups that are led by white people, because they just don’t understand.”

That lack of understanding is part of what advocates are trying to address.

Daniella Carter, a black trans woman from Queens, said that in high school, her classmates seemed to be “just learning what L.G.B.T. meant, let alone what transgender meant.”

Ms. Carter, now 26, was homeless and did sex work for much of her adolescence. But at times, “it wasn’t navigating survival sex work that felt like it was the burden, it was having to go to school and watch an entire classroom move away from me,” she said. “Because not only was I a burden to that space, there wasn’t even enough language out there yet to talk about what acceptance looked like.”

Her life changed, she said, after she saw Janet Mock on the cover of Marie Claire magazine.

It was the first time she had seen a trans woman “who reflected that woman I always dreamed of — the woman who is black, who’s powerful, who can present herself chic,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘I don’t know how, but I have to get in touch with this woman.’ I’m like, ‘That’s me, and I need to learn how to be that.’”

Ms. Carter did get in touch with Ms. Mock and other black trans activists, and eventually went to film school. This weekend, she released a video that highlighted trans people and emphasized their resilience — part of an effort to increase the visibility of trans people’s stories, and not just the ones in which they are victims.

A similar impulse was behind the Black Queer Town Hall, which Peppermint said stemmed from the many conversations she had with Bob the Drag Queen, her friend and co-organizer, about the killings of black trans people.

“We said to each other, ‘We need to do something that is more celebratory,’” she said. “Because all of the conversation around this only focuses on the terrible parts of this, which need to be talked about, but we wanted a moment to celebrate queer black excellence.”


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