1. Unlearning White Supremacy in the LGBTQ Community
When we set out to make America in Transition, we talked with trans people of color leaders from the Trans Latina Coalition, Black Trans Advocacy, Black Trans Man Inc, Trans Lifeline, and we asked them–what is necessary to help our movement evolve to be truly nurturing to our people?
We agreed that racism in our own communities is a huge problem poisoning our organizations, our community spaces, and ultimately the movement for liberation for all people. Is there a single gay neighborhood in this country with affordable rent prices or one whose business community hasn’t relied heavily on policing to remove and expel people of color? Do you remember when [insert LGBTQ conference name here] invited a speaker that made [insert marginalized LGBTQ community] feel unsafe, uncomfortable, and unwanted? Do you remember when POC spoke up about it only to be told they were too loud, too angry, or too sensitive? How many latinx groups don’t partner with black orgs working on the same issues? Name 5 national LGBTQ organizations with POC as Executive Directors… Our community is profoundly shaped by segregation, and when we try to come to the table to work together, we keep running into the same conflicts between white lead organizing and the rest of our communities.
This year America in Transition piloted our Unlearning White Supremacy workshop in Portland, OR; Chicago, IL; and Murray, KY. In 2018, we are developing a curriculum that local organizers can use to help our communities develop an analysis about racism and strategize about how we can unlearn it.
2. Meeting social justice filmmakers from around the world.
Last January, we went New York for the first ever Queer Impact Producer’s Lab hosted by Doc Society. We were inspired meet and strategize with filmmakers from Africa, Europe and the US who were strategizing about how our communities can use film to not just raise awareness but to work alongside people who are advocating for real change on the ground.
We were inspired by Southwest of Salem, a documentary that shares the story of four Latina lesbians who were wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two little girls during the Satanic Panic witch-hunt era of the ’80s and ’90s. The film fights against mythology, homophobia and prosecutorial fervor (all themes that make us think of the modern which hunt for trans people going on in the South). Even more powerfully, the film was a key part of debunking the junk science that contributed to their conviction and ultimately exonerating four latinx lesbians who had been falsely convicted. We left asking ourselves–how can we use film to help our people get free?
Our siblings working in Africa blew us away as we learned about the creativity and tenacity they are bringing to cultural organizing and human rights advocacy in Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria. From underground festivals to clandestine filmings, they often are taking tremendous risks to do things we take for granted. Taking on the government is no small feat and we were humbled to learn about Miners Shot Down, which documented a mass killing of striking workers by the South African Government. The film ultimately helped get the government condemned by the UN.
3. Our Community Showed Up for Us, Helping Raise our Goal and then some!
We had a big vision–to create a national platform enabling trans people of color to speak about the issues that impact us. Our project has a lot going on because it is part film, part social media campaign, part organizing effort, part storytelling, part educational tool, and part community-building. We knew that we would have a hard time getting support for outside of our community until we showed that we had people behind what we were doing so we took the plunge and asked you for 15K.
We put ourselves out there, and were scared that you wouldn’t believe in us or simply wouldn’t be able to offer the support we needed. Not only did you tell yes, you wanted to see what we were making, but you also supported us so that we could build something new and impactful. Thank you to everyone who shared, talking to your communities, and gave so that we could make our dream a reality.
4. North Carolina Came Out to in the Aftermath of HB2
America in Transition had been talking to Z Shane Zaldivar (who is based in North Carolina) in 2016. We were drawn to Z because he’s lived his whole life in the South and is hell bent on staying. We wanted to talk about the South as a culturally complex place, a place some queer and trans people love, even despite a political climate that is unsupportive. We had no idea that HB2 and the firestorm that followed would push NC into the national spotlight. So we decided we would film an episode that traced the trajectory of the law that would draw the battlegrounds for a post-marriage onslaught from radical conservatives.
We finished the episode in March, and as we premiered it on a tour of the South. The day of our screening in Charlotte North Carolina, news broke that HB2 was being repealed. And no one was happy about it (check out this great timeline below by the Charlotte Observer that goes into more detail about the sequence of events).
Our screening was packed with 200 people attending from sororities to multicultural campus groups who wanted to grapple with the violence happening towards trans people and strategize about how they could support the community. The following day our training for student affairs staff on how to integrate intersectionality into their work was our most attended workshop ever proving that though we face a powerful minority of hateful people in the South, there are many people who are willing to come out and do what’s right!
5. Called to Serve Premiere for United Latinx Pride
For the third year in a row, America in Transition celebrated Pride by attending and participating in a week of events with Chicago’s United Latinx Pride. We got the chance to close out the week with a screening, panel, and party. We were excited to share our work with our local community and with latinx cast and crew sharing about how latinidad shaped our gender identities as trans folks form the gender spectrum (trans masculine, gender variant, and femme of center) in the heart of Pilsen, a staunchly Mexican American neighborhood. How can we resist machismo? How are we creating our own communities? How are we finding ways to honor our ancestors? how are trans latinx people fighting to survive?
6. Reframing TDOR
Trans Day of Remembrance has come to represent a rallying cry with hashtags like #BlackTransLivesMatter and #SayHerName calling attention to murders and violence fueled by widespread transphobia. For too long, the trans community (especially trans people of color) and the issues that affect us have been shoved aside, dismissed, or ignored entirely. 20 years ago, it represented huge progress when Gwendolyn Ann Smith started the holiday as an internet-based project made to commemorate the loss of a dear friend of hers by the name of Rita Hester. Over the years, we have come to demand more than this sole annual acknowledgment. We are proud to be a part of what we see as a new stage in our movement–one in which trans people, our experiences, and our insights can be valued as we live. We are here to fight for a world where we see trans people of colors as full complex people, not merely as statistics or tragedies.
Every year we are bombarded with requests to speak and screen for Trans Day of Remembrance. We were grateful for the opportunity to host Trans Day of Remembrance events from Portland to the Shenandoah Valley because we see them as an opportunity for honoring our ancestors, building community, and activating the allies we need all year long.
In Chicago, we teamed up with Brave Space Alliance and the Trans Liberation Collective to help reframe TDOR in the first ever TDOR centered around black #trans folks on the South Side of Chicago. In a city that is dramatically segregated, we are always thinking about how social geography shapes the world around us, and we’re striving to co-host cultural and social events that combat the effects of divestment from queer communities of color. What makes us safe? How can we build unity? Check out our recap video below.
On the heals this especially painful time of year, we also wanted to support trans people who were delving into a holiday season with the potential for even more emotional minefields. Many of us feel so embattled just survive in this world that it seems like we don’t have the luxury to care for ourselves, so we shared a self-care guide for trans folks for TDOR and Beyond.
As our enemies have grown more vicious, hateful, and violent to our existence, we have grown more dedicated to supporting one another, uplifting leaders in our community, and building another world. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for being a part of America in Transition. We look forward to another year of loving one another, celebrating the beauty of our communities, and fighting for justice. Contact us about getting involved today, make a tax-deductible donation if you can, and reach out to host a screening in your community!
From the beginning, one of our goals was to actually pay trans people of color to make media about our lives, and we wouldn’t have been able to do that without everyone who gave to our crowdfunding campaigns as well as our sponsors Arcus Foundation – Social Justice, Sundance Film Festival, Chicago Filmmakers, Propeller Fund, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, GLAAD, Docs In Progress, Trans Justice Funding Project, and Illinois Humanities.