Sex & Gender

op-ed: straight black men killing black trans women: why?

June 13, 2016

Let me state my positionality. I am a self-identified masculine of center woman. I am black. I am working class. I am a radical, far left, millennial. As a poor black queer woman with overlapping oppressions I speak sincerely to a very specific segment of the population, black cis hetero males.  I do so out of love and anger.

I aim to spark dialogue between straight black men and the black trans community. My targeting comes from the countless articles and court cases featuring black guys killing black trans women. What is trauma porn for some is a major concern and security issue for many.

I address you because you are my brothers, uncles, cousins, mentors and friends who are killing my sisters, aunties, cousins, mentors and friends. You are killing your own people out of fear stemming from confusion. Black men are killing trans women out of embarrassment. These feelings much like the killing is unnecessary and irrational. I am here to tell you there is nothing to be scared or embarrassed about.

What is common about most of these occurrences? 1) A black trans woman daring to breathe and exist crosses path with a black man. 2) The black guy finds the trans woman attractive 3) The black guy proceeds to talk to the woman with sexual or romantic intentions 4) the black dude discover she is trans 5) the black man becomes violent with her. If we knew better we would do better.

By Davelle Barnes*, AFROPUNK contributor

Things I need straight black men to know….

1)     You have no right to kill without direct threat to your own life. Trans women being beautiful and taking up space on this planet is not a threat! In fact, their presence is a blessing.
2)      In the words of Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are believe them; the first time!” You are not the final say on gender or sexuality. If she tells you she is a woman believe her and accept it. It really is as simple as that. You do not have to date or engage her but you best put some “respek” on her name and her gender!
3)      It is okay to be trans attracted. Just like some people are gay and some people are black, some people like trans folx. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is more common than any of us would like to believe or admit.
4)      A trans woman’s life is not a game. She is not out to “trick you”. Her existence and presentation is never deceitful. She is simply navigating the world on her own terms. If it confuses you, who gives a fuck. Smarten up. Her humanity is always valid!
5)      Your “street cred” or “manhood” is never more important than her right to exist.
Bonus! The last black man who tried to use the “She tricked me” defense went to jail. He will be there for a very long time. Although, I am strongly against prisons and the current legal system in place, especially as it pertains to black men; I am also against senseless acts of violence, specifically the killing of black women. Yes, ALL BLACK WOMEN!

You may ask why only speak to black men. Cis Hetero White Men through history, policy, the military, participating in law enforcement and aggressive capitalism is killing everyone, the planet included. Honestly, I don’t have a high expectation of or for them. They are not my kin. Through activism I tried to combat white supremacy.

Knowing what we know about the ways in which black men are depicted, I think it is time we show a different heterosexual black man. One with knowledge and respect for all the beautiful ways one can exist while black. Black men who understand that queer and trans people exist everywhere blackness presents itself, throughout every era of black history. One who is not ashamed of his desires or lack there of. Black men who accept black women of all varieties (college/ high school dropout, mother/ no kids, broke/ ballin’, fat/ slim, light skinned/ dark skinned, tall/ short, lil booty, fat booty, itty bitty titty committee/ tig o bitties, butch/ femme, gender non-conforming, trans). Black men who see brown skin and think, they are of my people. Discerning black men who recognize opportunities to respond with peace and love not fear and aggression. Black men who realize their liberation is bound with ours and injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I want to show the world the black men I know and love.

I am cis woman who has not been the best trans ally. I am actively working through my privilege and personal bias. I share this with you so you can begin your journey. So that at the very least all black people can guarantee one another’s safety amongst us. So that we can affirm one another’s existence and recognize our gifts.

Picture credit: Lauren Soleil-Downer at werqatl event

*Davelle Barnes aka Ms Dada Esque is a filmmaker, writer and recording artist. She is a Co-Collective Liaison of Activism for the Womanist Working Collective and the Outreach Coordinator for Warrior Writers. The Temple University Film Student has participated in the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) and 1Hood Media Academy. Davelle is the producer/ director of the short film #Haiku. Her poetry appears in After Ferguson, In Solidarity and Steer Queer: The Redemption Issue. She is a contributing author at QuntFront Media and the writer of . Follow her @DadaEsque on Twitter and msdadaesque on Instagram.