I recently picked up some in-flight reading material, which included Jet magazine’s latest issue (April 29, 2013) - a special report on the invisibility of missing black children.
While reading, I was stunned to see that the news section of the magazine not only covered trans folks and restroom use, but also a story from a 29-year-old trans woman of color named Brandy Ahzionae.
In the one-page profile (on page 15), Brandy opens up about her journey towards womanhood, about having to leave home due to a lack of acceptance of her gender, about “turn[ing] to the streets,” about using drugs and partying as a means to cope and about daring to survive this hostile world by engaging in the sex trade.
“My life shifted when I met a group of fellow trans sisters who provided love I’d never felt before,” Brandi says. “They made me feel comfortable about fully transitioning.”
Never underestimate the transformative power of sisterhood. We need more spaces dedicated to collective growth, learning and pro-sisterhood intent.
To have this story featured in a legendary black publication, one read by many black households, is a feat. When our stories are told not only in “mainstream press” (which is way far behind) and by the “LGBT mainstream” (which is also failing us and trans and queer folk of color miserably), but in the publications read by communities of color, true acceptance and growth occurs.
We hear often about the violent exiling of trans women of color, we hear about our vulnerability when it comes to HIV/AIDS, homelessness, sex work and sex trade, lack of employment, housing, shelter and education. But what we do not hear often is the stories and the voices of black trans women like Brandi, like Kiara St. James and Tanya Walker and numerous other sisters of color. My voice, Laverne Cox’s voice, Isis King’s voice is not enough.
I applaud you, my dear sister Brandi, for daring to be seen, for sharing your story with all of us, for carrying the torch and legacy of active resistance and survival that trans women of color have long uplifted. I also applaud the editors of Jet for recognizing Brandi’s resilience and brilliance - and embracing trans women as your sisters and daughters too.
Now we must call on the rest of our communities to do this embracing work and ignite change for all of our sisters.