by Venus Selenite
Only once have I seen traffic stop for the lives of Black trans women. It was in Franklin Square in Washington, D.C., towards the end of last summer, a week after Tamara Dominguez, a Latina trans woman, was murdered in Kansas City, Missouri.
GetEqual and Black Youth Project 100 organized this disruptive protest during rush hour. One of the participants, the executive director of a local LGBTQ organization, was distributing “Black Trans Lives Matter” buttons. The text was in bold black, laid over the colors of the transgender pride flag.
I was reluctant to wear the button. It wasn’t that I questioned whether black trans lives mattered; I wholeheartedly believe my life and every black trans person’s life matters. The person who gave me the button later announced his support for Hillary Clinton, and that’s what made me reluctant to wear it.
As Clinton stumps across the country with her convincing speeches and dismissal of interactions with young black activists, the #WhichHillary hashtag was born. This isn’t the question I ask. Instead, I wonder: which trans people does Hillary Clinton support?
On February 25, Trans United for Hillary launched. The organization is “a nationwide effort to mobilize transgender people and their allies [that] will provide volunteer opportunities, host events, and release resources for transgender people and their allies to show support for Hillary Clinton,” according to a statement from the group.
Trans United for Hillary’s steering committee is made up of trans advocates. Clinton’s positions are well-researched, but records and history are meaningless without true solidarity. Her campaign promises to build on the “progress” made by President Obama’s administration to implement legislation and protection of transgender people in the United States.
Clinton once said: “We need to say, with one voice, that transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us, and they deserve to be treated that way.” But her behavior — as the Southern plantation owner’s wife, speaking in a condescending tone with maternal racism toward black people — means she’s likely to treat black trans people the same way. Particularly if we were to confront her about her bloody trail of negligence.
While she was Secretary of State, Clinton told United Nations Human Rights Council in 2011 that “gay rights are human rights.” It was seen as a declaration supporting the worldwide LGBTQ community. But if you look at her equality plan for trans people, you could be convinced she and/or her team believe the words “gay” and “transgender” are synonyms. Clinton still isn’t aware that trans people of color have specific needs, accommodations and injustices. It doesn’t take an astrophysicist to figure out she’s covering the basics to make sure she can become the first female president of the United States — by any means, expense, or destroyed life necessary.
As Clinton happily glides over the bases of trans ally baseball, she’s only scored home runs with white trans people. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, is perched comfortably at the top of the list of Trans United for Hillary’s founding members. Activist Sarah McBride’s name is right up there, too.
It’s no surprise that Clinton is comforted by the support and donations of trans individuals who remain complicit in the structures of white supremacy and fragility. These are people who navigate their days as white people, regardless of their non-heterosexual, non-cis sexualities and genders. Clinton has also exchanged best-friend hugs with America’s trans spokesperson, “Girl, Bye” Award honoree Caitlyn Jenner, who recently expressed interest in being trans ambassador to Ted Cruz’s imaginary presidency.
Did anyone on Clinton’s staff provide her the unemployment, harassment and homelessness statistics of trans people of color in D.C., where much of her business was conducted as First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York, and Secretary of State? Does she have the smallest awareness of black and Latina trans women’s criminalized survival?
Before Clinton announced her candidacy, did she even contemplate undergoing a thorough social justice education — which she’s had 40 years of public service to do? Would building on Obama’s progress mean the abolishment of gay rights while advancing queer and trans justice — or does it involve kicking another trans woman activist out of the White House during this summer’s pride reception? (e.g. Jennicet Guittérez)
It’s disturbing to watch Clinton continue to garner support for things she hasn’t truly invested in. Her dismissal of activist Ashley Williams, who demanded Clinton apologize for her 1996 “super-predator” remarks, amplifies both her privilege and prejudice. I bet while she served as First Lady of Arkansas, the names Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, or Miss Major Griffin-Gracy weren’t spoken or printed in Little Rock newspapers.
Clinton has sat in meetings and talked with Black Lives Matter organizers, but will she offer the same treatment to the Trans Women of Color Collective or the Trans People of Color Coalition? The effort known as Trans United for Hillary while it will be successful because of its mostly white and financially abundant committee. But it’s is a painful bell ringing in the ears of those who are suffering the most. People like me need more than love. We need others to value our lives — and we need that value to feed action and accountability.