In August, when I heard that a transgender woman of color was killed in Dallas, I couldn’t help but remember that her death wasn’t the first I mourned this year, and it likely won’t be the last. Since 2017, nearly 10 percent of all murders of transgender people in this country have occurred in Texas — the highest percentage nationwide.
Political attacks on transgender people in Texas are contributing to a culture of hate and violence that results in our daily persecution and limits our ability to live our lives to the fullest. Thus far in 2021, Texas legislators have filed about 40 anti-transgender bills. This hostile atmosphere creates deadly circumstances for trans people, particularly dark-skinned Black transgender women.
I’m tired of politicians using my gender identity and my race as part of political strategies that are based in fear and ignorance. My transness has been the new proverbial enemy since marriage equality passed in 2015, and I’m tired of being the dog whistle to rally politicians’ bases to the polls or fatten their wallets with donations. But time and again, lawmakers prioritize bills that try to ban transgender girls from playing sports, always citing the example of just a couple of Black transgender girls winning races in Connecticut, trying to repackage racist, misogynistic stereotypes as proof of a problem that doesn’t really exist.
This handful of anti-equality politicians are creating an environment that breeds harassment toward trans and nonbinary people, eliminates our humanity, and makes it acceptable for Texans to disrespect us. On a daily basis, trans people across the country like Jayla Ware are tormented on public transit commuting to underpaid jobs. They, like Iris Santos, are attacked and murdered at fast-food restaurants. Like Ky Peterson and Daniela Calderon, they are harassed and assaulted in Ubers or when walking to a convenience store. And when trans people encounter violence, Texas allows folks to use gender identity against people like me to circumvent justice.
Our death and despair shouldn’t be the catalyst needed to reveal our humanity. Stories about trans people must do more than describe our marginalization; they must explain the barriers we face are the direct result of policies that attack us and harmful rhetoric from legislators who tell people they should be afraid of us.
Why not focus on policy solutions that help us not only survive but thrive? We are Texans, deserving of the same individual liberties and representation that all other Texans have. Transgender people, like all people, deserve love and belonging, safety, food security, affirming and affordable medical care, housing, and investment in our futures.
I will continue to fight for these rights and opportunities, and despite the hate, I will live because my existence is revolutionary. We stand on the shoulders of Texas’s own giants: Monica Roberts, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, Bayard Rustin, Lucy Hicks Henderson, and Lizzie Montgomery, a former enslaved Texan who transitioned after Juneteenth.
I will continue to demand better from our elected officials. As the director of Black Trans Women Inc., a national nonprofit led by Black trans women focused on social advocacy, positive visibility, and building strong leadership among Black trans advocates and activists, I will provide a platform for those who need it most. I urge every ally and LGB person to join me in holding lawmakers accountable and calling out dangerous rhetoric as the violent threat it is. We must implore them to reject harmful anti-transgender legislation and focus on advancing strong nondiscrimination policies like the Equality Act and investing in programs our communities need to thrive.
Diamond Stylz is the executive director of Black Trans Women Inc, and the host and producer of Marsha's Plate, a weekly podcast that centers trans-inclusive pro-Black feminism and pop culture.