June 15, 2020

Trans People Are Black People, Too

Ty Williams, Community Education Group
Ty Williams
Project Coordinator
Community Education Group

By: Ty Williams

“Tony McDade could have been me,” is all I keep thinking.

I still have not processed exactly what is happening in America, in 2020. For the last two weeks, I’ve watched a country that is supposed to be so free – so liberal – continually make excuses for hate, condone bigoted behavior, and allow police to act as judge, jury, and executioner.

Just like the rest of the world, I watched the fucked up video of a coward kneeling on an unarmed BLACK MAN.  No bystanders could legally help George Floyd, and the officers that should have intervened just watched. It reminded me, again, that I could have been George.

So, George was murdered on May 25th, 2020, and the world starts to riot.

Tony McDade was murdered two days after, on May 27th, 2020, was misgendered as “black woman,” and yet, nothing.

Even after gaining national recognition from our former President, who acknowledged Tony’s death, I still hear only two names: Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Let’s be clear: Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s murders are not less important than Tony’s.

Just like Eric Garner…

Just like Oscar Grant…

Just like so many other Black individuals killed by the police.

DC Tony McDade Rally 01 768x1024, Community Education Group

I feel as though, when it comes to murders of LGBTQ individuals, we are often left out of the conversation.

Does the movement that is upon us, now – Black Lives Matter – require us to sacrifice our LGBTQ identities in order to support the greater call?

Why is it that the only two names you hear are George and Breonna?

I can tell you why: they are Cisgender individuals.

Even though we hate to admit it, even as black people, we pick and choose which black folx we want to support and care about.

We don’t want to talk about cultural bias, because, if we do, then we’re airing our dirty laundry.

Newsflash:

Our dirty laundry has been aired.

We have to do better.

You can’t scream, “Black lives matter,” and not mention that it was founded by members of the LGBTQ community.

But, that’s for another day.  Generational curses are real, and we, as black folx, have to do better at holding ourselves accountable.

We all should be saying, “George Floyd,” after being called to “Say His Name!”

We should all be saying. “Tony McDade,” after being called to “Say His Name!”

It is this lack of recognition that has made me very conflicted to go out and protest.

Here’s why:

What we do know from the Facebook video is that Tony was involved in an altercation, the day before his death. He stated that, when he saw the guys, again, he was going to, “...get them.”

See, there’s an old saying in the hood: “You live by the streets; you die by the streets.”

What many don’t know is that I spoke with Tony, a week before the Facebook incident – a week before Tony’s death.  He told me his story about how he’d just gotten out of prison, back in January. He was reaching out on how to transition. Little did I know, that would be the first and last conversation I would have with Tony.

May 29th, 2020 is a day that will largely remain a mystery, and it’s something of a blur:

Tony 1024x869, Community Education Group

Media outlets reported that there was a police shooting involving a woman. The woman was a suspect in a stabbing. It took two days to realize that the woman was not a woman, but my brother, Tony McDade.

The first thing that came to my mind was, “If the media had him gendered properly, as male, would we have known it was Tony, sooner?”

Then it’s the next question: “Was he shot, because he was a suspect and a Black man, or because he gave police a reason?”

See, I know that, even if you do everything right, you still can be shot for being a Black man in America.

After I found out it was Tony, it just sparked something in me. Like…I’ve been advocating for transmen, for a few years now. I always a Black man, first; Trans, second!  Toni just confirmed what I always felt – just like Black Cis-men, Black Transmen fall victim to the same systematic oppression bullshit.

The first thing the media did was bring up Tony’s police record, just as they do with so-called “thugs” (AKA – “Black men”).  They will bring up anything negative to negate the fact that an office decided to discharge their weapon with no warning.  Florida law, of course, protects officers involved in shootings from having their names released.

I know that, when I walk I out my door, every day, the world sees a Black man, first. So, I know I could be cashing a so-called bad check, and yelling out, “I’m trans!  I can’t breathe!” damn sure isn’t going save me.

I also feel that it’s my responsibility to make sure my brother’s name is remembered and when people yell, “Black Lives Matter,” they remember Tony McDade.

Remember, Trans people are Black too.

Tony’s murder sparked so many feelings and emotions.

Feelings of knowing that I lost someone I feel as though I let down; a person who was crying out for help, but just couldn’t reach in time. The thought that I could’ve been Tony keeps popping in my head.  I know how and what it feels like to be judged.

It wasn’t until the last couple of years of my transition that I learned how to navigate as a black man. I hate how systems have placed restrictions on us.  If I say how I feel, I have to be careful because I have male privilege, but don’t be smarter than the white man.  If I don’t speak up, I’m selling out and all these other things.

I mean, where did all these rules come from?  I’m just trying to make it back home.

I don’t want to negate the fact that another life was lost, and another black man is gone too soon.

 I can’t help but to think about again the similarities Black Transmen have with Black cis men. Yet, we are all yelling, “Black Lives Matter.”

DC Tony McDade Rally 02 1 768x1024, Community Education Group

The only compromise I could come to was to have moment of silence and protest in Tony’s name on June 6th, 2020 – the date of Tony’s funeral.

It wasn’t until I was out on the B in Washington, DC, on Black Lives Matter Plaza, where I had time to pause, look around, and see all the beautiful people coming together – all races, ages, and etc.

Not one vendor or Cis person mentioned Tony McDade. It just amazes me.

I don’t know if I’m more taken aback because Tony is a Transman, or because Tony wasn’t even considered a factor because of his background and for being Trans.

Why am stuck?  It shouldn’t be so hard to write and say how I feel, and yet…this is .

As I continue to process how I have to navigate being safe in America, I find out that my brother, Tony McDade, is gunned down by the damn police.

My fear has become reality:

A Black Transman has been killed by the police and no one gives a damn.

I said what I said.

Ty Williams is the Project Coordinator for the Community Education Group. You can follow him on his Facebook Page and Instagram by clicking on their respective icons.

CEG is a national organization that offers local programs and policy solutions.

We serving diverse populations, prioritizing indigenous populations and populations in need

CEG's work includes Direct Service programs, Policy work, and Capacity Building

Disclaimer: Blog posts on CEG’s Community Perspectives blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Education Group, its grantors, its corporate sponsors, or its organizational partners, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby each author serves to promote open, honest discussion about issues specific to their personal expertise, lived experience, and perspective. Please note that some of the content on Community Perspectives may be graphic due to the nature of the issues being addressed by the author.

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