This summer, I posted a selfie on Instagram – a simple act to illustrate my own joy as a queer and trans person. Among the usual heart and fire reactions from friends, I got a response from a white cisgender acquaintance who mentioned a recent attack of three trans women in Los Angeles and asked how she could better support me.
I had seen the videos of that incident. The last thing I needed that day was another unsolicited reminder that my community is always in danger – and that there are countless people watching from the sidelines, making empty promises in a backwards attempt to erase their privilege.
Today, on Transgender Day of Remembrance, I’m honoring the memory of the 40 trans people who were taken from us this year, and the many before them. For me, part of honoring my stolen trans siblings is to call for everyone who does not experience the world as a trans Black or Brown person to listen to our guidance and seek to do no harm – so one day, we won’t have the need for a day to remember all the people we’ve lost to hate and violence. This means putting your money, resources, and time where your mouth is, so trans stories can be those of abundance and joy.
For the past few months, Black folks everywhere have been experiencing exhausting check-ins from white people and people who have access to white privilege who insist on centering themselves in the ongoing movement for Black lives. As a queer and trans Afro-Cuban woman, those check-ins are compounded even further, by people I don’t even know very well often reaching out to offer shallow condolences that serve as reminders of the latest act of violence committed against one of my trans sisters.
These exchanges demonstrate how many people – including those who would consider themselves allies to our movements – see trans folks like me as one-dimensional. While I am a vocal activist for racial justice and queer rights, I’m also a young person with a full life. When I’m not working to protect myself and my community, I’m writing scripts, watching Netflix, painting my nails, working on projects, and doing things that help me thrive.
Often, I’m treated by people outside my circle as either a victim or as the spokesperson for the trans community. I’m neither and through those interactions, I’ve recognized the need for a major shift in the way people think about and interact with us.
At best, being seen as one-dimensional gets trans folks uncomfortable or triggering remarks on social media. At worst, it gets us killed.
People who really care about Black and Brown trans people will turn concern for us into action. Love is a verb. We deserve our flowers now, while we’re still alive.
Despite the widespread ability to share fundraisers on social media, I see the same few people giving regularly. My community basically circulates our money amongst each other, while cisgender people lurk in the shadows.
My Instagram account has a highlight ‘Queer$,’ that features ways you can send money directly to Black queer folks. My creative studio, TEAM, will soon be launching a mutual aid fund platform to get resources directly to people who need it. The zine I helped create, The TEAM MAG, showcases our real lives to provide celebratory representation that we don’t often get elsewhere. My work with the National Black Justice Coalition provides a space for young, diverse Black people to come together to create solutions, curriculum, and workshops each week.
I do this work because it’s integral to my survival, and to the survival of the people I love. I do it with future trans kids in mind, knowing my actions today will inform what their lives look like later. Black and Brown trans people were doing this work for decades before I was born. I do it because others before me like trailblazing activist Monica Roberts, who fought for equality and legal rights and died earlier this year, sacrificed so much to get us here.
While queer and trans people shouldn’t be expected to be strong and resilient, the truth is – we are. We create supportive communities in the face of a society that would obliterate us if given the choice and show up for each other every single day. Now, I’m asking for others to show up; not for us, but together with us.
There is likely a mutual aid effort in your area that you can plug into. Maybe you’ve seen those individual fundraisers for folks who need help with their rent or food, or money for surgeries. When these opportunities come along, seize them. They’re gifts born from the tireless labor of Black and Brown organizers, giving you the chance to support our fight for collective liberation.
Trans people deserve to be supported and celebrated every single day. We deserve safe and stable housing; gender-affirming, comprehensive healthcare; and reliable income through work of our choice. We also deserve the space to rest, to create, and to laugh. But, bringing these things to fruition requires work from everyone.
Today, I ask you to actively seek out ways to support Black and Brown trans folks directly. Let this be your starting place and bring your friends along with you.
Sage Dolan-Sandrino @Thhrift, is a queer youth leader, Founder and Creative Director of @theteammag, and member of The National Black Justice Coalition’s Youth and Young Adult Advisory Council and Black Trans Advisory Council.
Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images