by Princess Harmony
Last year was called the “year of visibility” for transgender women. For the first time in media history, trans people had a spotlight. But, as I’ve already written, media attention is not necessarily always positive. Mainstream media often doesn’t put forth many positive representations of trans women of color, and instead usually reduces our lives to tragic stories of our deaths and murders.
While death is very real to our community, that does not mean most of the narratives in the media about trans women need to be negative. I want to shift away from the media’s emphasis on our lives as tragedies. Instead, I want to talk about viewing our lives as powerful stories of strength and inspiration.
Trans women of color are doing big things in the world such as organizing work, community building, and radical self-expression. The most commonly known examples of trans women of color are those such as Janet Mock and Angelica Ross. Their work is revolutionary for trans women of color, giving trans writers more opportunities and helping techies find jobs.
But even beyond those that receive positive mainstream attention, trans women of color are amazing. We are best friends, sisters, mothers, daughters, creators, writers, artists, programmers, and so much more.
This is because trans women of color come from a legacy of resilience. When obstacles have prevented us from access to care and wellbeing, we created our own paths. When gatekeepers kept us away from hormones because we were too brown, or too poor to get them, we created networks where we bought and sold hormones, even before the internet became accessible to us. It was trans women who fought in liberation movements alongside cis men and women. We organized in our communities against AIDS. We organized among sex workers to protect ourselves. And even now, many of us are on the front lines of movements today. We live and breathe revolution.
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Following the footsteps of the many racial groups that we come from, trans women of color have built resources for each other outside of white supremacist power structures. As an Afrolatin trans woman, I know that my ancestors fought for the freedom of Puerto Ricans. They fought against Spain and they fought against the United States. That is a legacy I carry forward in my fight to live. My mother, much like me, is a fighter. I want to do her proud by living without fear.
Nothing is more powerful or revolutionary than the will to live at times when it feels like a lost cause. Most trans women of color experience and survive neglect, abuse, and racism during our lifetimes. Despite the violence and oppression that we face, we still form communities and networks on our own. In fact, we even create our own resources in the face of death. If there’s a need in our communities, we fill it ourselves.
At its core, many of us do the work we do because we want each other to survive. Nothing gives me more purpose than to want to do better for our sisters. Knowing about the resilience of other trans women of color inspires me to keep dreaming of a better world, and I try to provide that inspiration back in return. I write and create not only because I enjoy it, but also because I hope to uplift other trans women of color to do what they enjoy.
This is not to deny the hardship of being a trans woman of color. I will admit that I’ve felt defeated by life more than once. I think this comes from struggling to remembering all of the positive aspects of my life and the amazing work that many of us are doing.
Any victories we have in our private lives are worth celebrating. I like to remind myself of all of the obstacles I have overcome and I am grateful that I fought hard with the support of my friends.
No matter how much darkness and death surround me, I refuse to give up because I believe that we honor the dead and those who will come after us by living freely every day. I keep fighting, not just for myself, but also for everyone who came before me and those who will come after me.
We can’t change the past, but we can damn sure work for the present and towards the future!
For Maya Young, Veronica Caro, Monica Loera, Elisha Walker, Kiesha Jenkins, London Chanel, Ty Underwood, Victoria Carmen White, Lorena Escalera Xtravaganza, and many more. All of you will be in my thoughts and heart forever.
Princess Harmony is unapologetic afrolatin weeb trash that likes anime, visual novels, and video games. Her favorite snack is Strawberry Pocky and she loves empanadas. Oh, and she likes shiny things. Especially glittery shiny things.
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