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Centering Cis and Trans Women, Girls, & Gender-Expansive Youth
in the Movement for Black Lives
In cities across the country teenagers like 15-year old Zee Thomas, 17-year-old Tiana Day, 18-year-old Shayla Turner, and 19-year-old Brianna Chandler are leading protests and organizing to combat racism and injustice: “As teens, we feel like we cannot make a difference in this world, but we must,” said Zee Thomas.
The tragic death and disappearance of 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau, underscores the ways in which Black cis and trans women, girls, and gender-expansive young folx are often left out of movements that center cis heterosexual men and boys. As Oluwatoyin said herself in a viral video released prior to her disappearance: “We’re doing this for every black person, because at the end of the day, I cannot take my…skin color off…” Having reported a sexual assault just days before her disappearance, Oluwatoyin’s death and disappearance are also salient reminders that black women and girls are disproportionately at risk of sexual violence and that the violence and systemic racism black cis and trans women and girls face goes well beyond policing.
“We keep missing the intersection of race and gender when it comes to Black women,” writes Brittney Cooper for Time. Although the Black Lives Matter movement was founded by three black women, the names of cis and trans Black women and girls who have been murdered, including Breonna Taylor, Na’kia Crawford, Riah Milton, Doinique “Rem’mie” Fells, Atatiana Jefferson, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Pearlie Golden, and countless others, seldom receive the outrage and press coverage of their cis hetero-male counterparts. We also rarely hear the names of Black girls like 17-year-old Darnella Frazier who witnessed and filmed the police killing of George Floyd, or Rachel Jeantel, a friend of Trayvon Martin’s who was on the phone with him when he was attacked and later mocked when she testified. As Tamara Winfrey-Harris writes in The Atlantic, “the racist American criminal-justice system is wholly destructive to black lives without regard for gender, age, sexuality, or class,” but experiences of racism are compounded by these intersecting identities by more than just the criminal justice system, beginning early and often with adultification, school pushout and exclusionary discipline, and hate violence.
Race, Gender & COVID-19
In The New York Times newsletter, In Her Words, a profile of 18-year-old Ashley Reynolds highlights the compounding effects of race and gender amid COVID-19. The Black to the Future Action Fund published a COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Plan for Black America, including mandatory race, gender, and class specific data collection and safe housing options for victims of domestic violence and at-risk family members of essential workers. Read the full plan here. The Girls at the Margin National Alliance created a brief on girls and gender-expansive youth and COVID-19, highlighting the struggles they face due to the pandemic and making recommendations to address those challenges.
Incarceration, Policing & Abolition
A new report from the ACLU and Prison Policy Initiative gave failing grades to every state in the country for their responses to COVID-19 in jails and prisons. “We find that most states have taken very little action, and while some states did more, no state leaders should be content with the steps they’ve taken thus far,” the report states. The Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women has the highest number of prisoners who have tested positive for coronavirus (165) including two women who died of the disease. According to The Sentencing Project, 658 youth and 771 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 in juvenile detention facilities, numbers that could be curbed by releasing low-risk youth.
In an op-ed for Teen Vogue, Eli Enis writes that Joe Biden’s new police reform plan falls short: “As someone who’s had direct involvement in the racist police state that activists and progressive politicians are currently trying to dismantle, Biden needs to propose sweeping structural changes if he wants to have any tangible effect on his legacy of mass incarceration and police empowerment.” In New York City, the Queer Liberation March, focused on protesting police brutality and racism, was met with arrests and pepper spraying of peaceful protestors according to the Gothamist. Lucy Diavolo, who attended the march, writes that “…queer liberation – a future where LGBTQ people are free not just from discrimination, but from all oppressive systems that hold everyone down – must include police abolition among its goals.”
The criminal justice system isn’t the only system advocates are trying to dismantle – activists have also noted the harm the child welfare system does to Black children and families. The upEND movement is working “to create a society in which the forcible separation of children from their parents is no longer an acceptable intervention for families in need” and calling on our society to reimagine the meaning of child welfare as fundamentally anti-racist. Not only does the child welfare system disproportionately impact Black youth and families, it also disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ young people. A new report from Children’s Rights highlights how “the discrimination, institutionalization, and abuse that LGBTQ+ youth already face are exacerbated by COVID-19,” and provides recommendations.
According to the Hechinger Report, lower-income families are forced to gamble with their children’s well-being because child care subsidies do not serve all eligible children and 22 states offer subsidies at or below the 55th percentile of market rates.
Health & Reproductive Justice
Whitman-Walker Health and a coalition of LGBTQ+ advocates are suing to block a Trump administration move to erase provisions of the Affordable Care Act that ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity – reinterpreting the sex discrimination provision to refer only to biological sex. The new rule would go into effect in mid-August.
As COVID-19-related lockdowns and quarantines increase the risk and rates of domestic violence, advocates express concern over potential increases in reproductive coercion – especially in states where the pandemic has been used to restrict access to abortion care. A poll from the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association shows that nearly 50% of young women ages 18-34 are worried about being able to access reproductive health care during the pandemic. For immigrants who often face many barriers to obtaining reproductive health services during non-pandemic times, the COVID-19 pandemic adds another layer of challenges.
At Lovelace Women’s Hospital in Albuquerque, a secretive policy screened pregnant women for coronavirus “based on whether they appeared to be Native American” and compared the expectant mother’s zip code against a list of Indian reservation zip codes kept by the hospital. According to anonymous hospital staff, the policy was often used to separate newborns from their asymptomatic mothers while the hospital waited for results to come in.
The Alliance for Educational Justice and Advancement Project led a national week of action to support young people fighting to eliminate the presence of police in schools. This student-led movement has long been spearheaded by Black students, who have called for an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and the over-policing of Black youth in schools. In early June, Minneapolis Public Schools terminated its contract with the police department in response to George Floyd’s murder. The Portland Public School system followed suit, canceling its school resource officers program shortly after. Minneapolis Public Schools Board Director, Josh Pauly, is urging other districts to continue the momentum and cut their ties to police as well.
In South Carolina, Dynasia Clark was barred from walking at her own graduation because of a discriminatory dress code that prohibited her from wearing pants.
The organization Sex Ed for Social Change believes that sex education should be taught through a racial justice lens: “Our history of racial injustice is intimately connected to longstanding myths that demonize and denigrate Black and other people of color’s sexuality and reproduction. We cannot pretend that these myths aren’t central to white supremacist debates of who is or is not a human being; of who can or cannot be an American; of who does or does not deserve to live,” says Christine Soyong Harley.
Supreme Court Rulings
In the span of two short weeks, the Supreme Court made four landmark rulings. On June 15th, the Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration, protecting LGBTQ+ workers from employment discrimination. Days later, on June 18th, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that blocked the Turmp administration’s attempts to dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. However, on June 25th, the Supreme Court ruled that asylum seekers cannot file petitions of habeas corpus when their asylum claims are rejected. Writing for the dissenting minority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the decision “handcuffs the judiciary’s ability to perform its constitutional duty to safeguard individual liberty and dismantles a critical component of the separation of powers.” Most recently, on June 29th, the Supreme Court “struck down a Louisiana law that could have left the state with a single abortion clinic.”
- What We Mean When We Say Abolish Prisons – K Agbebiyi,
- “History Defeating” with Kimberle Crenshaw –
- In Our Names Network: “a national network of organizations, campaigns and individuals working to end police violence against Black women, girls, trans and gender nonconforming people.”
- Reform v Abolition – What does it mean? – Toni Wilson, Girls for Gender Equity
- Divest from the Police: A Toolkit for Colleges and Universities – UnKoch My Campus
- National Crittenton and the National Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives are hosting a series of In Solidarity Conversations for and with cis and trans girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth. Register for a conversation here or participate via the United State of Women In Solidarity Conversations Portal.
- Alliance for Girls is hiring a new Program Director. Applications due by July 25, 2020.
- Youth Advisory Board member Carla on COVID-19 and its impact on youth in DC – DC Girls’ Coalition
- Honoring the work of the Ending Violence Against Girls and Women & Advancing Adolescent Girls’ Rights teams, who are leaving the NoVo Foundation
- Following Young People to #PoliceFreeSchools – Alliance for Educational Justice
- Chrystul Kizer, who was charged with killing the man who sexually trafficked her, has been released on bond thanks to a Chicago bail fund, and supporters are calling on prosecutors to drop the charges against her.
- Three Words. 70 Cases. The Tragic History of ‘I Can’t Breathe.’ – Mike Baker, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Manny Fernandez & Michael LaForgia, The New York Times
- Have Philanthropy and Nonprofit Become the “White Moderate” Martin Luther King, Jr. Warned About? – Vu, Nonprofit AF
- I Used to Thank JK Rowling for My Survival. Her Transphobia Has Put Me in Danger. – Serena Daniari, Rewire
- ‘Hold My Earrings’: Black Women Lead on Systemic Solutions in the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond – Jacqueline Patterson, Colorlines
- There is No Culture Without LGBTQIA+ Pride – Tracey Onyenacho, Colorlines
- COVID-19 Worsens Student Debt for Women, Study Finds – Philanthropy Women
- UN Report: Gender Equality Attitudes Study 2019
“You dared to dream of a future free from every form of discrimination and violence—and charted a vision to get us there. You are organizing, mobilizing, and building anew, just when the world needs you most. Without apology, you have stepped boldly into your own power, and in turn you have ignited a global wave of change.”
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