A week after the largest mass shooting in U.S. history—one that directly affected our LGBTQ communities—the whole nation is focused on gun violence. But I can’t help thinking: "This is greater than guns."
As a transgender woman of color, any proposed or pending legislation about guns in this country, while important, is the very tip of the iceberg of what will make me safe. As the community organizer at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, what feels even more urgent and crucial to me is naming and working to end the racism, misogyny, biphobia, homophobia, and transphobia that are the root causes of the deaths of my trans friends and family.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ 2015 Hate Violence Report, trans women of color suffered the most reported LGBTQ hate violence homicides last year. Trans women, and especially trans women of color, are the most impacted by hate violence. Though we continue to fight, we are dying inside, hoping and praying we make it to see another day, because the reality of this world is that our lives and existence are never celebrated.
A community member once told me, “We need liberation, not visibility.” A frenzied focus on gun violence in the media, and in LGBT organizations, misses the point, and risks obscuring the many issues trans and gender-nonconforming people like me face. Trans people don’t just face danger in bathrooms or clubs, but also in our homes, schools, and workplaces. We also lack access to housing, employment, and supportive services.
We are coming up on the anniversary of the “big win” for LGBTQ people—a full year of marriage equality in all 50 states. But who has truly won when the basic needs of trans people are not being met—when we fear for our safety 24-hours a day?
Despite Orlando, many in the LGB community can still celebrate Pride, while so many trans and gender-nonconforming folks are still reflecting and speaking out about how far we still need to go.
Sylvia Rivera had to fight to be heard at the first Pride rally in 1970. We need to fight just as hard today to be heard again. Trans and gender-nonconforming people are the reason why we celebrate Pride. Listen to our voices and the needs of our community.
To my trans and gender nonconforming community, keep fighting like hell for the living as I will always keep fighting like hell for you. In the words of Lourdes Ashley Hunter: “Every breath a black trans woman takes is an act of revolution.”
LaLa Zannell is a community organizer at the New York City Anti-Violence project (AVP). LaLa plays a key role in AVP’s Rapid Incident Response team, which responds whenever incidents of hate violence, sexual violence or intimate partner violence impacting LGBTQ and HIV-affected New Yorkers become public. Follow LaLa work on Twitter at @antiviolence.