Dear privileged members of the trans and cis communities, white and white-passing gay men, lesbians, et al:
This is a callout.
The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is here. Last year it was important that you get your history down, but by now, one thing we should all have straight is that the first Pride was a riot led by trans women of color:
Marsha P Johnson.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.
And others whose names are lost to us. Period. Full stop.
This year, and at all times moving forward, it's important to call out the white queers, the white gays, the white trans folx and any white-passing people who are fighting for our civil rights in order to expand their narratives; so that they do more for people of color and work toward greater equity for the most marginalized in our community. We cannot keep deluding ourselves into thinking we are doing enough to fight for the members of our community who suffer the most—we need to step up our game and pay attention to who is leading the movement.
It's time to put Indigenous two-spirit people, black trans women, femmes of color and Latinx people at the forefront of our activism and thinking. Stonewall's 50th anniversary later this week is not only a marker of 50 long years of trans women of color fighting for our civil rights, it's a marker for the white community's failure to direct their mass actions in a tangible way that ends state-sanctioned violence on those who are of color, of Indigenous and trans experiences who see the most violence among us.
I resent that rainbow crosswalks and rainbow mouthwash and rainbow Nikes are sold to us as tokens of respect toward the LGBTQ2IAP+ community. I promise you no amount of visibility can deactivate the hate and discrimination that is peddled to people through politics and religion and is perpetuated and fed by our inaction. We must confront the far reach of this violence and eradicate it from our society. Otherwise our activism is performative, and we are only here to better our individual quality of life. This makes us no better than anyone who is upholding any form of US-sanctioned violence.
As an afab, transmasculine, and white-passing non-binary person, I am levels up in privilege and am perceived as a white man. I can't recall a moment in which I have feared for my life, thus, I cannot begin to elucidate the type of violence, fear and stress trans women and femmes of color experience.
This year, for example, the average life expectancy for trans women of color is 31 years old.
My privileges place me in an entirely different part of the struggle, and it is my duty to yield any personal agenda I may have to uplift as much of the liberation as possible, instead of allowing varying types of erasure to obliterate histories, herstories and theirstories from common knowledge.
Looking out into the greater landscape of my community, things are so bad. Black trans women and trans women of color are facing genocidal-serial violence in multiple states across the country:
Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas and New Mexico—and these are just what have been definitively reported. Each year the list of names grows longer by dozens who have been murdered for being themselves.
Visibility comes with violence.
Queer and trans communities are under attack.
Latinx trans women are dying in New Mexico while being detained in ICE facilities near the US-Mexico border, and they are alongside tens of thousands of infants and children in these concentration camps. Indigenous and two-spirit siblings continue combating the trauma of US settler-colonial imperialist violence while fighting for our one and only heavily polluted planet.
Pride is not rainbow-colored items. And the corporations marketing and selling the rainbow are doing so because they want your money. Buying a rainbow will not prevent black women from being murdered, and it distracts from hard truths: Even as I write this I am inhabiting occupied Tewa land. If you are non-Indigenous, wherever you are, know that you are too occupying land that's not your own. The mass destruction of 130 million Indigenous people is our country's foundation, the enslavement of black bodies built it into what it is today, and as we roll into the next days and years in our fight for trans and queer liberation, let me redirect you to our new starting points:
The attack on trans people begins with the initial decimation of Turtle
Island by settler-colonial genocidal practices; rape, murder and enslavement. Were it not for this starting point in colonization, you would not be reading this, and we would not be fighting against a gender binary that was forced upon those ancestors and violently imposed on us today.
This is an uprising which is hundreds of years old, and I can promise you that for every drop of queer and trans visibility you see, a queer and trans person of color was the target of violence, hatred and discrimination—particularly black trans women and anyone who defies the constraints of the gender binary.
The first Pride was a riot, and so far, the 50th Pride has become my personal resentment. It is imperative in our fight for transgender people's civil rights that we advocate for the dismantling of US imperialism; the military-industrial complex, the medical-industrial complex and all organizations that deplete power from the people for personal gain.
We must restore land ownership to Indigenous peoples, and we must shut down our dependence on profit. We must free all of the incarcerated people of color and pay reparations to the communities of color who have earned only pennies on the white man's dollar. We must remember that while some are partying, others are marching. There are those in our community who do this work tirelessly, thanklessly, year after year—oftentimes without a choice. There are people who have lived and died fighting; there are people dying for this fight every day, right now, as we speak. It is not enough that our Pride and our fight are the focus starting June 1, and lasting only 30 days.
We cannot let our movement calcify any further. We cannot accept hollow sentiments of love as action. We must be out there fighting every day, 365 days a year, for everyone, until we live in a time and place where people are valued and have all the means necessary to thrive.
Anastasio Wrobel (they/them) is a visual artist, activist and theorist living and working in Santa Fe.