Excerpted From: Pamuela Halliwell, The Dying Black Transgender Woman: Sight Unseen #Saytheirnames, 42 Thomas Jefferson Law Review 6 (Spring, 2020) (101 Footnotes) (Full Document Requested)


PamuelaHalliwellHistorically, it has always been unsafe to be Black in the United States of America. Although Blacks have seen many changes over the past hundred years that have made it safer to be Black in America via legal protections such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing discrimination in employment, non-discrimination policies, attained voting rights, increased educational opportunities, and equal rights, Blacks are still being incarcerated at increased levels, sanctioned by laws that are written to discriminate disproportionately against Blacks in drug and criminal offenses, and in certain areas of the U.S. still are largely negatively impacted by wages disparities in the workforce, difficulty securing public and private sector employment, housing discrimination, barriers accessing healthcare coverage and educational advancement, higher rates of substance use and higher mental health statistics. There are even more challenges when a Black person is also an LGBTQ person, as there is stigma pertaining to belonging to one of these communities from both the majority community as well as within the minority Black communities. There is also discrimination between the subsect communities within the LGBTQ communities. The most vulnerable to these layers of discrimination are the Black transgender women who live amongst us in the U.S. where many are seen and are rejected, ridiculed, assaulted, blacklisted, and murdered. They are either seen but not acknowledged when they are killed, misgendered, mis-identified on social media, or never seen, never even mentioned on local news as if they are invisible, sight unseen. The murders of transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (GNC) individuals continue to occur not only in the U.S. but also worldwide. Last year, 221 transgender and GNC were killed. One hundred and thirty were murdered in Brazil and 63 in Mexico. A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in the United States in 2019 reported,

... at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means. This is not a new problem. In the seven years that the Human Rights Campaign has tracked anti-transgender violence, an average of at least 22 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been victims of fatal violence per year. [Ninety-one percent] of them were black women. Eighty-one percent were under the age of 30.

The slaying of Black transgender women has become an epidemic, an epidemic that “... disproportionately impacts trans women of color who comprise approximately 4 in 5 of all anti-transgender homicides.” Since the Human Rights Foundation (HRC) began tracking deaths and reports of transgender and GNC individuals under attack, more than 2/3 of the violence against trans people was committed with a gun and has been consistently and overwhelmingly fatal violence against a Black transgender woman, demonstrating that black transgender women are especially vulnerable to attacks, sexual assault and murder. As the south comprises of most of the Black American population, Black transgender women are extremely vulnerable there and are overwhelmingly discriminating against in the south, prevented from securing necessary employment to safely live, adequate housing and education that could grant them access to secure safer neighborhoods and overall better quality of living standards. President of the HRC Alphonso David reported, “At this moment, transgender women of color are living in crisis. Over the past several years, more than 150 transgender people have been killed in the United States, nearly all of them Black transgender women.” Black transgender women are a marginalized community whose lives are not seen as equal by the government and current White House administration and they are not consistently protected under law. This has been demonstrated by the government refusing to address the significant factors that increase the likelihood of Black transgender women being killed. The government continues to not only ignore their existence but exacerbates these factors by proposing anti-transgender legislation and attempting at every branch of government possible to remove the limited protections they already have in place. If the current administration passed the Equality Act, this would provide nationwide protection to not only Black transgender women but all transgender and GNC individuals so that they would be seen as equal.

[. . .]

The mamba mentality. Coined by the late great Kobe Bryant who although tragically died, this inspiring part of his legacy will live on. Creating a new catchy hashtag on twitter, he quickly realized the mamba mentality was much more, and became a way of life. As stated in his book, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play,” he writes about what the mamba mentality is, living your best life, learning to become the bigger, best version of yourself and striving to do and be more. It is dedication and perseverance. It is not giving up when times get rough. It is working hard and continuing to improve. I think we all have a little bit of the mamba mentality in us, the ability and resiliency to thrive to become better versions of ourselves, to not give up, to do what we think is right and rise out of fire, above the obstacles in front of us. We cannot be afraid of what others will say and stay frozen and encapsulated in that fear.

The current administration is attempting to remove protections from hundreds of thousands of transgender Americans and attempting to erase their identities as if they do not exist. The current administration has decided that transgender people are wrong and continues to attack them as if they are worthless, useless, and have no place in this country. The current administration demonstrates this by trying to remove protections so that the entire nation can discriminate against them. The current administration responds to these statements by ignoring that they exist as they ignore transgender people exist. The current administration has made it clear that it does not support the lives of Black transgender women and that it does not care that they are being killed at alarming rates even though they can do something about it through the Equality Act to demonstrate that their lives matter, that they are not second class citizens. We know that it is not right that people are killed for being who they are, and it does not make it right that Black transgender women are killed just for being who they are. It is not okay for anyone to be killed in this country just for being who they are. We know it is not right that an alarming proportion of them are Black transgender women being murdered. We know that it is not okay for us to sit back and not say something or do something about our country consistently and persistently attacking LGBTQ communities and specifically the transgender and GNC communities just for being who they are. We know it is not right for Black transgender women to die just because of who they are and having the strength to be themselves. If all of a sudden, instead of it being the LGBTQ community, we decided to attack and remove the rights of all people with brown eyes and discriminate against them in stores, the workforce, schools, housing, remove medical care, be discriminated against by police officers, family and friends, we would think it is ridiculous. We would think, that is crazy. Lots of people have brown eyes. I did not decide I was going to be born with brown eyes. Some of us, under enough strain, anguish, pressure, sadness, and fear, may try to hide our brown eyes with glasses, shades, or contacts. But the point is, it makes no more sense discriminating against people with brown eyes than allowing Black transgender women to be discriminated against and killed every year just because of who they are. Black lives matter. All of our lives matter and we all deserve to be treated equally, no matter who you are, as long as you are not hurting anybody else. We all see it, whether we have brown eyes or not, that it is wrong, so now that you see it, do not close your eyes. You see it now. Mamba mentality. Use this as an opportunity to do something to make it better and to become better and urge the Senate to pass the Equality Act. #mambamentality #mambaout

Pamuela Halliwell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works at the San Diego LGBT Community Center.