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Poz, Female, Trans, Queer: All Black Lives Matter

Innes

Columnist’s note: I’m Tyler Curry, and I’ve written the Daily Dose column for the past four years. When I sat down for this month’s issue, I struggled to find a topic or point of view that would be relevant right now. As a cisgender white man, I knew my voice wasn’t the one you wanted to hear at the very important moment. Instead, I need — like all of us need — to listen to and elevate Black voices. So I decided to use my platform to add another voice to the conversation; one that I have the utmost respect and admiration for, my friend and fellow HIV activist, Ashley Innes.

Being a Black queer woman can at times feel like you exist in multiple worlds. Traditionally society has never completely affirmed any of our identities and at times there can be a struggle to feel completely comfortable or safe in spaces.

In all-white spaces, we are reminded we are Black. In heteronormative spaces, we are reminded that we are not straight, even if we are in a heterosexual relationship. Then in both spaces, women are not valued as much as our male counterparts. So where does that leave us? Constantly at the intersection of homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and anti-Black racism. Attempting to thrive in society. Jumping up and down to be seen, screaming to be heard, and demanding to be respected.

At the time of writing this, Breonna Taylor’s killers have not been arrested and more than 12 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed this year, the majority being Black trans women. The attention around these matters has been sparse, and they have not sparked the type of outrage or action that’s warranted. The murder of Taylor should have been enough to launch the movement we now find ourselves in. The murders of countless trans women should have moved more people to action a long time ago.

The bottom line is this: you cannot say Black Lives Matter if that doesn’t include the lives of Black women and Black queer people. That also means acknowledging that the two are not mutually exclusive. You can’t cherry pick this movement. Your support can’t be conditional. When you say Black Lives Matter that must mean all Black lives. There are a lot of people protesting everyday that are not protesting for all Black Lives.

When a Black man is killed, the response is loud and unified. When a Black woman is killed, cis or trans, the response is mediocre and fades quickly, if it even comes at all. There has never been a time to pick and choose who deserves justice. Black people of all identities are being killed and no one is being held accountable. We have an obligation as human beings to show up, and work to change it.

Always remember that it was queer Black women who started the Black Lives Matter movement. To now ignore the fact that Black women, cis and trans, are being assaulted and killed in the streets and their homes is unacceptable. And this is nothing new. It is Black women who raised America’s children while trying to take care of their own. It is Black women who joined the suffrage movement despite being actively excluded. It is Black women who constantly shape democracy. It is Black women who were the first to fight back that June evening at the Stonewall Inn. Black women have consistently shown up for everyone, yet we continue to be the most disregarded and disrespected.

Now is the time for change. People are doing a lot of self-reflection and assessment. I charge everyone to go even deeper with that assessment. Have you consciously or unconsciously undervalued cis Black women? Have you consciously or unconsciously undervalued Black trans women? Have you allowed your bias to creep in? Have you been unable to affirm us fully, to love us fully, to give us your compassion and respect? Have you been unable to look to your own humanity to see ours? Black women of all identities deserve your time and effort in this fight. Because we’ve always given you ours.

Ashley Innes is a writer and HIV advocate. Follow her on Twitter @Ash_Innes.

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