Transgender women experience violence largely disproportionate in relationship to the rest of the LGBT community. 2017 saw 29 reported trans deaths by violence — the worst year on record — according to the Human Rights Campaign. And at 22 deaths and counting 2018 is quickly approaching that record.
Despite these headwinds, many trans folks continue to live their truth. One safe haven in the midst of this adversity is the Positive Women’s Network (PWN) —USA Webinar series. Targeted towards trans women, it is a digital effort to foster understanding and disseminate information acting as a virtual coffee room where trans women, particularly of color, can safely share their stories of living with HIV.
Trans women of color face even more challenges than their peers, occupying a space that finds them discriminated at the intersection of race, gender, and health. According to PWN—USA, “current research estimates that 1 in 5 translatinas and 1 in 2 black trans women are living with HIV in the U.S.”
Keeping It Real: Being Trans & Living serves as a respite to the daily reality they face. One of the stars, Tiommi Luckett, is a black transgender woman living with HIV. Her backstory addresses the two biggest issues affecting her HIV-treatment: lack of resources and information. When Luckett first received her diagnosis she went through an emotionally wrenching search for a HIV-specialist healthcare in Little Rock, AR. Luckett says, “All I could do was just cry because I didn’t know where to go. I researched HIV-Arkansas, AIDS-Arkansas, HIV-Little Rock as much as I could and I came up with nothing.”
The limited number of HIV-specialist healthcare providers and resources available for those in need, contributes to the high HIV rates among Black trans women. The show also depicts and seeks to challenge discrimination and stigmatization. Another cast member, Jada Cardona says, “I have found that my journey as a trans woman of color has led me to several closed doors.”
Cardona gives a moving emotional account of her other tribulations. “I always speak from my heart, and I always try to be the realest I can be at all times. So real that, you know, I’m so full of — I always tell my business. I always tell the truth to the point where I sometimes am racing through life and sometimes it makes me stop and listen.”
Cardona pauses teary-eyed. She continues, “This life ain’t easy. It’s not easy in the intersections I face: being transgender, being of color, living with HIV, being a woman. It’s just — it all culminates into a ball of always trying.” These women's resilience makes them seem indomitable.
Luckett and Cardona are just a couple of examples. Organizations like PWN — USA and their web series are important because by opening up such personal and emotionally-draining parts of themselves women like Luckett and Cardona are proof that you can be of any race, gender-identity, or health status and can still overcome what has the potential to knock you down and inspire others to do the same. So, take a good look at their faces because they are real and so are their journeys.