Grief is the emotion that we experience after a loss, but that loss doesn’t necessarily have to be a person. We can grieve ourselves, our autonomy, our identity, our ancestors, our sense of self-worth, our financial stability, our homes, any person who has distanced from us, or disowned us for who we are and how we live. It is important that the Black and Brown Trans community does not have to carry the weight of shared trauma and grieve alone. The word grieving describes a myriad of different feelings.
Many Gender Identity Clinics across the UK have cancelled appointments and redeployed staff elsewhere to deal with Covid-19, meaning that some Trans and non-Binary people have completely lost access to NHS healthcare for anything to do with gender, whilst others have had surgeries postponed. Trans people are grieving the loss of our healthcare. This grieving, for lots of people, has come after three years of waiting for treatment. Black and Brown people in the UK are more at risk of getting Covid, and are well known to experience many systemic barriers to receive healthcare. To add to this, the Britsh government is rolling back on Trans Rights, and Trans people (especially Black and Brown Trans people, especially Black Trans femmes) are being murdered globally for existing.
It is not enough to simply say that people are being murdered, we need to remember them and say their names. This is a list of some of the Black and Brown Trans people who have passed away this year:
Elie Che, Alexa Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, Monica Diamond, Lexi, Johanna Metzger, Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Nina Pop,Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton, Selena Reyes-Hernandez, Brayla Stone, Merci Mack, Shaki Peters, Bree “Nuk” Black, Draya McCarty, Tatiana Hall, Marilyn Cazares, Tiffany Harris, Queasha Hardy, Brian “Egypt” Powers, Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears.
I recently set up What Can We Do, a collective working to support Black and Brown Trans people through fundraising for their healthcare, mental health, and housing. What Can We Do began with me asking myself one simple question: Why aren’t people helping us? The us I am referring to is Black and Brown Trans people. Anybody who identifies as such exists at some of the most disadvantaged intersections of our society.
Now that we have identified some of the possible types of grieving that Black and Brown Trans people are going through, and some of the people who we are grieving for, we can look at how we begin to process this. But the simple answer is that we can’t. There is no way anybody could process that much loss and that much sadness when we know for a fact that these murders will continue to happen, and that we will continue to grieve all that we have lost every day. So here’s how my processing is going:
As I said, there is so much to process, so a lot of the time I choose not to. I choose to ignore it and carry on with my day because I do not know how to deal with all of this.
I sometimes see the names above and think no more. I often see situations in my Black and Brown Trans friends’ lives and think no more. I’m so regularly enraged by all the shit we have to go through just to exist.
What can I do so that there is no more grieving over brutal murders? Nothing. I can’t clean the streets of murderers, I can’t single-handedly revolutionise the UK incarceration system to focus on accountability over punitive measures, I can’t physically protect every single vulnerable person. I can’t change the past or the future, but I can be a part of looking after the people who we still have. We can look after each other.
There are always going to be points where I am overwhelmed with sadness. Sometimes I break down crying for no reason. Except that there is always a reason. I am forever processing ancestral trauma and forever grieving the constant losses within my community. 2020 has been a hard year.
I will continue to grieve for so many people and so many things, we are all grieving. But our world will change (thank GOD Trump is out of the White House), and we will change and grow. I am resolved in my goal of helping to create change.
My favourite poet Andrea Gibson says this about grief:
I keep listening to the moment the grief becomes a window
When I can see what I couldn’t see before
I have to accept myself, and I have to accept everything that I am grieving. I’m a third-generation mixed-race Black person. My history is invisible through the lens of whiteness and I am living under white supremacy. But I like to think that I can choose my Black Trans ancestors, I choose Mary Jones, Lucy Hicks Anderson, Carlett A. Brown, and Marsha P. Johnson. I choose all the Black Non-Binary people and Transmasculine people who have been hidden by white supremacy throughout history.
I have grieved, and I continue to grieve. I have celebrated, and I continue to celebrate. I have glanced at my past and I am looking to the future. What about you? Are you looking to the future of Black and Brown Trans people? What can you do? What can we do?
Illustrations by: Malaika Ibreck and Leigh Newton
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