I don’t know anything about being a trans woman of colour. Those labels don’t apply to me, so all I know about that experience comes from listening to people talk about it. That, and obituaries.

Trans women of colour get murdered. They get murdered often enough that it is A Thing that people (or, at least, people in the LGBTQIA+ community) are aware of. I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips and the statistics aren’t always terribly reliable, because some trans people are not out so their murders aren’t listed as such. Anecdotally, though, It Is Known that being a trans woman of colour makes you more likely to get killed than, for instance, being my pasty-white cis-presenting ass.

Plenty of discussions go on as to why that is A Thing, many of which center around “lifestyle choices.” Did those trans women of colour make choices that put them in danger, such as living in dangerous areas or engaging in dangerous or even illegal occupations? Where those choices really choices, or the inevitable result of marginalisation? We could spend some time on that, I’m sure, but I’d rather not. I hate the way so many of those discussions handle the issue: those individual trans woman of colour shoulda coulda done this. Other individual trans women of colour shoulda coulda do that. Being a trans woman of colour is treated as an individual challenge an individual has to face, individually. Yeah, I know I’m repeating myself, but that bit is pretty important.

Trans women of colour are individuals, obviously, but if you take an individual trans woman of colour and extract her from our society, the issue becomes very different. Put her in a society free of bigotry and the prurient obsession with people’s crotch giblets, and she will face a different set of challenges. Put her on a desert island, and she will magically morph into a person trying to survive. She will be an individual facing individual problems. How well she copes will depend on a combination of luck and her skills and disposition. Right here and now, that is not the case.

Being a trans woman of colour is A Thing because our society makes it A Thing. Take transphobia away, and you end up with a woman of colour. Take racism away, and you end up with a woman. Take sexism away, and you end up with a person.

I am not saying that someone’s identity as any or all of the above labels isn’t valid; I’m saying that if our society didn’t make that identity an issue because of a whole stack of bigotries, it wouldn’t be A Thing. It definitely wouldn’t be A Thing That Kills People.

The problems some individuals face aren’t individual problems; they are social problems. They created and pushed by society. To expect those individuals to face them alone seems ill-advised. I’d go as far as to describe it as “profoundly clueless.” Yes, each individual will ultimately have to fight their own fight, but they can fight together. That’s one of our superpowers as human beings: we can communicate, co-ordinate, and work together towards a common goal. Anyone who considers that strategy cowardly or worries about it diminishing the power of the individuals who pick it is missing a point: that there is a difference between facing a duel and a lynch mob.


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