Dear Cis Folks, The Work Ain’t Nowhere Near Done
In the aftermath of the Presidential Election, I heard many cisgender people talking to the tune of “These past 4 years have been hell”— as a Black Trans Woman living in America, the hell cisgender people talk about has always existed for trans people like me. Trans people — especially Black trans people and Black trans women at that —have repeatedly been tossed to the side and thrown under the bus for generations. Yet, it’s through our struggle for survival as trans folks that this society has made progress on any social front in this country.
So, for this Trans Awareness Week, I raise the question to cisgender folks: What more are you pledging to do for trans folks?
Increased visibility is a double edged sword: the more people talk about trans folks, the more our issues are thrust into the media and the more attacks we get as a community. This year has been the deadliest on record for the trans community, with at least 34 trans people murdered, the majority of them being Black and Latinx trans women, and there have been a slew of legislation and policies aimed directly at harming trans people. We are under constant attack in our communities, as we face physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse daily from what is said about us from personal interactions to the media.
In my own experience, I have been preyed upon by men in bars, ridiculed in public for doing nothing but existing, and under the state laws of Tennessee, it’s illegal for me to change the gender marker on my birth certificate. On top of that, I’m faced with rampant transphobia directed at me in television shows and I exist in this perpetual loop where I am the butt of everyone’s joke. It’s with these experiences in mind that I am demanding—not asking—that cisgender folks step up and commit to supporting trans folks in a genuine way.
Where I need support as a Black trans woman is in a myriad of ways and cis folks need to commit to doing that work while honestly thinking of me as a human being and not a charity project. Trans people simply don’t need your charity, we need your energy, effort, dedication, and resources. This requires cisgender folks building relationships with trans-led organizations, trans folks, and trans-led initiatives to commit to making a change. Educate yourself and read what trans authors like Janet Mock, C. Riley Snorton, and J Mase III have written. Reach out to trans organizations, donate to them, offer up the skills you have and ask them outright: “Is there any way I can best serve y’all?” Call out the transphobia in your own circles and when you see it in your life. Donate to mutual funds that specifically support trans people and go out of your way to continually spread the word. Speak out against anti-trans legislation and policies and get involved with community organizations that are fighting them. Check in on trans people in your life that you have a relationship with and offer whatever resources you have to them. Show up for us while we are still here in whatever way you can.
I want cis folks to take a good look in the mirror and commit to doing more with the privileges you have in this society. Trans people, especially Black trans people, are doing all we can to survive and support each other, while holding each other accountable—and it’s high time cisgender folks started doing the same. Yes, there are cisgender folks working with us, but trans people’s needs are varied and require an intense amount of work to address. Cisgender folks, it’s time to step it up.
Maxine Spencer, 24, is a YouthResource activist with Advocates for Youth, an organization that works alongside thousands of young people in the U.S. and around the globe as they fight for sexual health, rights and justice.