Ashes

Today I learned that if you search on Google for “black trans woman,” you have to weed through several pages to find a link that is not about the murder of one.

On the second page of results, you run across the TransWomen of Color Collective, which is a promising resource, but many of the videos are set to private, and I couldn’t find any firsthand writings there by trans women of color. (There are a number of videos of Lourdes Ashley Hunter, the Executive Director and a black trans woman, speaking publicly for the rights of trans people of color.)

I couldn’t find any firsthand writings by trans women of color. At all. This might be a deficiency in my ability to Google, but I don’t think that’s the issue.

There were a few brief profile pieces, an interview or two, several articles quoting Laverne Cox. Almost everything was about the overwhelming violence exacted upon trans women of color, about the cost of existing at the intersection of transgender, black, and woman – and the cost is too often their lives. No wonder it’s so hard to find trans women of color expressing themselves in public spaces.

I’m not doing very well at my goal of not offering commentary,  but when it’s so difficult to find people speaking openly in their own voices, it seems like someone should bring some attention to that. When the lives of a particular group of people are routinely reduced to ash, it seems like someone should say something about that.

Today I begin my Lenten journey, and the discipline I am practicing is a fast from unexamined privilege. In addition to the usual Ash Wednesday message that we are dust, the ashes for me represent the (ongoing, imperfect, attempted) death of my blind participation in oppressive structures and my contribution to the actual death of others. That smudge of the burnt remains of a palm branch begin a period of lifting up and listening to the voices of others. I begin by realizing that trans women of color can’t forget that they are dust, can’t forget their own mortality; it is always before them, always a threat. Death is always a reality. So, when I finally came across something that celebrated trans people of color in life, not just in memoriam, I wanted to share that with you, too.

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Micah Bazant is a visual artist who identifies as trans and gender-nonconforming. They create art inspired by struggles to decolonize ourselves from white supremacy, patriarchy, ableism, and the gender binary, and have created a series on Trans Life and Liberation, including submissions from other trans people. You can view many of the images here.

I need 39 more days of materials by and about marginalized people, so if there is a voice you think I need to hear, please drop me a comment.

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