Samantha Bee Highlights the Challenges Faced by Black Trans Women - Rolling Stone
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Samantha Bee Highlights the Challenges Faced by Black Trans Women

Full Frontal examines the disproportionate violence against trans women of color — and how the Trump administration has made their lives even more difficult

Samantha Bee celebrated the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on LGBTQ workplace discrimination during this week’s Full Frontal episode, but she noted that there was much more work to be done. “It’s still incredibly difficult to be trans in America, particularly if you’re black,” she said.

Black trans women are disproportionately affected by fatal violence based in racism, sexism and transphobia, and they have faced discrimination and exclusion from within their own communities, despite helping to build the foundations for the gay liberation movement and for Black Lives Matter. In coverage of their murders, they are often misgendered and referred to by their “deadnames” in articles and police reports. Throughout their lives, they are more likely to face issues related to HIV and poverty, and over 40% of black trans women report being homeless at some point in their lives.

“Even in some women’s movements, trans women are left out by trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs, who hatefully argue that trans women aren’t real women,” Bee said, “to which I say to J.K. Rowling, silencio, you cruel, rich dick!” (The Harry Potter author caused a media firestorm earlier this month when she published a 4,000-word blog post defending her controversial “concerns” about trans identity.)

Bee called Rowling’s transphobic stance “deeply disappointing,” and argued that trans people deserved more protection, pointing out that 28 states still haven’t expanded hate crime laws to protect trans people, and that two states — Tennessee and Kentucky — are still debating “bathroom bills” that prevent trans people from using the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

Even in a liberal bastion like New York City, there is an anti-sex worker law that disproportionately cracks down on trans women of color, colloquially referred to as the Walking While Trans law.

The Trump administration has been particularly hard on trans people, with the president recently removing protections from the Affordable Care Act that ensured healthcare providers can’t discriminate against trans patients. And with the racial disparities in healthcare exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, black trans people have it even harder.

The violence against black trans women has been called an “epidemic,” and we may not even know the full extent of it, with domestic violence going unreported due to victims’ fears for their safety. More than a third of black trans people say they have been harassed by the police, with 15% reporting physical assault and 7% reporting sexual assault.

The silver lining, Bee said, is that these issues are finally beginning to be addressed within the greater LGBTQ community. Earlier this month, as part of ongoing protests for racial justice, black trans organizers led 15,000 people in a liberation rally and march in Brooklyn, proclaiming “Black Trans Lives Matter.”

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