June 23, 2020

Black Trans Resistance

This year's Pride month lands during a global pandemic and a national uprising to defend Black lives, which means the LGBTQ community of color is on the frontlines, as always. Maria and Julio speak with Elle Hearns, the executive director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, and Nala Simone Toussaint, founder of R.O.A.D, the Reuniting of African Descendants. They talk about the history of struggle and leadership from Black transgender women, and the importance of centering Black trans lives in the movement for justice, and in the media.

Nala Simone Toussaint talked about the importance of finding time to heal and drawing on the strength and teachings of ancestors to do so. 

“It’s like this feeling that I have of trying to figure out how to navigate this long process of grief that just seems not to ease up,” said Nala Simone Touissant who thinks about friends who are native to this land and talk about how their ancestors take a year to grieve. “And I’m like the interesting thing about this type of feeling of being in the intersection of Black and trans is that you often don’t get time to heal from grief. Grief is always meeting you at the front door.”

Elle Hearns talked about looking past the policies and rulings to the systems that trans people have created for themselves, and the significance of Black trans organizing. 

“It’s so important for us to understand why we resist, why we organize. We do it for the misfits. And the reality is that if you are Black you will never ever fit into the societal standard of what is expected around excellence, our own standards of accountability,” said Elle Hearns. “And so as Black trans people, we’ve consistently been creating our own standards of excellence. Whether it’s providing mental health support or providing COVID relief or even engaging our communities in how to not call the police in these moments because actually our people’s lives still existing after they’ve had a moment of harm, or they’ve had a moment when their health needed some support, those are the things of utmost importance to us.” 

This episode was reported and produced by In the Thick's New York Women’s Foundation IGNITE! Fellow, Harsha Nahata.

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Photo Credit: Nicholas Ortiz

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