By Jeremy Schulz
Do these names sound familiar?
Bianca “Muffin” Bankz.
Samuel Edmund Damián Valentin.
In 2016, Kimberlé Crenshaw appeared on a TED Talk titled “The Urgency of Intersectionality.” Crenshaw, an American lawyer, a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, and civil rights activist (among other titles) spoke to the reality of intersectionality, and she started this particular TED Talk by asking the audience (if they were able) to stand as she read names aloud, to remain standing if they knew the name and sit down if they didn’t. Crenshaw listed names in two groupings, first naming African American men who had been murdered by police and following with the names of African American women who had been murdered by police. Unsurprisingly, at the end of the activity only four people remained standing, with the majority of people beginning to sit down once the names of African American women were being named. This activity revealed to audiences the reality of the problem Crenshaw worked to address, that concerns relating to race and concerns relating to gender are largely kept separate.
In 2019, Kimberlé Crenshaw came to Boston University to share an even further deep dive into the reality of intersectionality. Today the word “intersectionality” has become a buzzword, but the fact is that the disparities relating to race and gender continue to go unnamed. In 2020 over 44 Transgender people were murdered in America, and a majority of the lives taken were Black and Brown Trans women. It is February 2021 and I wonder how many people would know the names of any of the people murdered in the Trans community. It is 2021 and at least 5 Transgender human beings have been murdered. I say at least because, as the Human Rights Campaign names, “too often these deaths go unreported – or misreported.”
Dominique Jackson, a Black Transgender woman in Jackson, Mississippi was shot to death on January 25th 2021.
Fifty Bandz, a 21-year-old Black Transgender woman in Baton Rouge, Louisiana was shot to death on January 28th 2021.
Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, a Black Transgender woman in her early 30’s of Atlanta, Georgia was shot to death on January 17th 2021.
Tyianna Alexander, a 28-year-old Black Transgender woman in Chicago, Illinois was murdered by gun shot on January 6th 2021.
Samuel Edmund Damián Valentin, a Transgender man was murdered by gun shot wounds on January 9th, 2021 in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.
If we are to do the work of anti-racism, we must also do the work of anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, and anti-transphobia. These and the other ‘isms’ that are tools of oppression work to maintain what Isabel Wilkerson refers to in her 2020 book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents as the American Caste system. As a theologian I cannot help but see the ways in which Transgender life of color is denied on the basis of religious thought, and I begin to seriously wonder whether our faith communities and institutions of higher theological education will ever be able to remedy this, let alone if they will ever want to challenge this disparity with the same gusto with which other social justice issues are taken up.
I do want to name how proud I am of STH, and to hold that pride in tension with the need for more. This year a majority of our graduating class have decided that they want the 2021 class gift to go towards supporting our BIPOC and TQBIPOC (Trans, Queer, Black, Indigenous, People of Color) siblings. As far as I am aware, this is the first time we as a community have come together to name that we are waking up to the existential threats facing specifically Transgender life of color and committing our resources as a community of students to bringing forth change within our own hallowed halls. This is monumental, and yet more must be done.
If the capital-C Church is unable to meet the needs of the people, is it not our right to search and define ways in which needs are met, and to name those as sacred? If we, as people of faith, as people who straddle the realms of sacred, secular, and profane are to truly serve, are we not charged with fiercely advocating and making room in our spaces to speak to the horrific reality that Black and Brown Transgender bodies are valued less than any others in America? When do we put together a committee to address these concerns and who will we invite to serve on such a committee? When will we see concerted efforts to eliminate obstacles that otherwise keep TQBIPOC communities from our schools? While BU has rightly named that anti-racism is a necessary investment in our collective liberation and future, how many more lives must be taken before such investments become truly intersectional?
If you want to support Transgender life in Massachusetts, there are several ways:
https://transgenderemergencyfund.org/ The Transgender Emergency Fund is the only organization dedicated to supporting low income and homeless Transgender individuals in Massachusetts. The Transgender Emergency Fund assists with homelessness prevention, shelter assistance, nutrition assistance, prescription co-pay assistance, transportation and escort to medical appointments, etc.
https://www.masstpc.org/ The Transgender Political Coalition of Massachusetts is working towards lived equity for all trans, nonbinary, and gender expansive people in Massachusetts.
https://www.transresistancema.com/ Trans Resistance was formed in June 2020 by Athena Vaughn, Chastity Bowick, and a collective of trans and queer activists in the Boston area who built upon years of contention with the Boston Pride board for being trans-exclusionary in their process, vision, and work and failing to equitably represent the magical TQBIPOC community in Boston.
Jeremy Schulz is a Survivor Theologian at Boston University School of Theology and fierce advocate against Trans violence and LGBTQIA+ partner abuse. Learn more about them at StoriesofSurvival.love