Politics of Trans Liberation

Below is a piece I prepared for Solidarity Summer School Panel on Trans Politics last month. The question was: What are your thoughts on oppression particularly against trans people of color and how to build a grassroots movement? Trying to skate away from tokenization and wanting to reframe conversations about oppression into freedom dreams I decided to share my ideas about trans liberation. I had 15 minutes to respond and chose to start with what trans liberation is not because there are so many people outside of my community defining the transgender experience in the media these days who I just disagree with. Then I shared a few ideas for building grassroots movements for trans liberation.

Politics of Trans Liberation

Solidarity Summary School, Thursday July 23, 2015, Chicago, Il

I enjoyed how Tiq Milan spoke of the current shifts in Trans politics…

The scope of emotions, questions and challenges we face within our families is emblematic of the cultural shift that’s happening right now. We’re all being challenged to understand gender as a spectrum of possibilities that is determined by the individual not something rigidly defined on a binary axis. The transgender experience is being addressed within the LGBT movement and explored within the broader population as a means of understanding. For so long, a lot of the engagement with the trans community has been antagonistic and shaming yet now we are pushing ourselves culturally to reexamine gender identity and how it’s created or defined.”Tiq Milan

While keeping that in mind and recognizing how we as trans and gender fluid people are continuing to suffer the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, incarceration, and hate motivated violence in the LGBTQ community. We have to remember that Trans Lib is more than employment, housing, safety, & respectability. Lets begin with what it is not before looking at some ideas for building grassroots movements for trans liberation.

Liberation is not…

           Gender Conformity Conformity is boring and oppressive. Gender is too complex to fit into any of your boxes and its naive to think all trans people are seeking the same outward display of gender. Telling me how well I “pass” is not a compliment. What surgeries I’ve had or might be thinking about are none of your business. Nor should physical changes be used as badges of approval and social capital in our communities. My trans liberation includes non gender conforming and gender fluid expressions of humanity.

Marriage Equality There are many privileges built into marriage in america that all people should have access to if they so choose. However the way the fight for marriage has been waged is a backdoor fight for access to the status quo not a challenge to how problematic it is to tie privileges to an institution thats not for everyone. Marriage equality fails to address many of major issues in everyday people’s lives such as suffer the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, incarceration, and hate motivated violence.

              Visibility Its time out for the type of representation in the media and arts that erases people of color, ignores or demonizes trans masculine people, waters down our diversity, complexity and beauty to make us palpable to our oppressors and in the efforts to keep hope alive for those who just want to assimilate to the status quo. No more” if you could just see how much we are just like you” narratives. I refuse to assimilate for you to respect my humanity.


               Money or participating in capitalism, assimilation, the american dream, aka fuck your dirty notes and fiat currency.

               Dominance or more guns, wars, cops, and imperialism. Our blood is constantly being shed and we are constantly punished for standing up for our so called civil rights.  Its doubtful we will ever have the ability to manufacture or amass enough weapons to destroy our oppressors without killing the planet along the way. Liberation is not my ability to use violence to feel “safe”. I don’t want power by might but I will use might and any means necessary to protect myself and love ones.

               Equality Or Equity  I don’t want to be equal to white people, the so called average american, cis, hetero normative blah blah nor any other privileged person in society.  I want to build new ways of relating to and valuing life thats not dripping with the blood of oppression.


            Social Justice, my liberation is not progressive politics, liberalism,reformist politics, choosing between the lesser of two evils, or participation in any process that allows the U.S. government to masquerade as a civil society.  We have to build a new society stop pretending like the ship isn’t sinking and scurrying for crumbles from capitalists tables while licking the wounds from the oppression that holds the table together. There is no such thing as justice in a corrupt society driven by profit over people.


Its difficult to untangle poor, black, trans, womanist, queer or any other aspect of myself and communities I’m tied to from my visions of liberation. One of my favorite writers and thinkers said this about liberation:

“We need Liberation, not this quasi-religious notion of sovereignty promoted by the Moors and other Black cults.  Liberation means we create Systems and Institutions for our own governance and security while removing the oppressive authority of White Domination from our lives.  Liberation requires us to dismantle oppressive Institutions and Systems, not just get out from under them and level them standing.  Liberation spreads to all life, to all ecosystems, not just a defined, exclusive population, that’s what sovereignty is, the freedom of a selected and predefined population. “  Diallo Kenyatta

Here are a few of my ideas for to Building Grassroots Movements for Liberation.

Prioritize Supporting and Learning with Young People

Organizations, conferences, organizers and activist to really need to prioritize cultivating young people, creating spaces for them to, learn challenge, build, and support the world we are fighting for.  Children aren’t just the future they are now and they are amazing. Our movements are weak and the work is futile without their insight and leadership.

More Coalitions That Aren’t driven by identity politics, good intentions of 501c3s, white saviors, and poverty pimping. Revolution, social change and require disciple. We have to know history and study strategy. We have to stop organizing in class based cliques, affinity groups and comfort zones. The people we are closest to yet irritate us the most, the people we share interests or privileges but choose to avoid cause in other ways we are so different, those are the people aka the masses,who we have to learn, organize and build with. Especially White people who love to go to POC orgs and communities to live and organize. Stop skating your responsibilities and go organize you father’s cousins and neighbors. For myself its the conservative christian family members who’s homo/transphobia cuts me like no other’s.

Less Reactionary Coalitions

We need to develop better processes to cultivate everyday working people and make spaces for the masses of people to lead their own struggles. People getting active is great but that activity growing out of dramatic moments makes sustainability challenging. Resistance to oppression has been present from the beginning of this country, there are plenty of books, movies, and veteran activists to share the art of successful organizing, we know how to win campaigns, spread info, develop leaders etc. We need more coalitions based on strategic targets, issues, and visions of liberation.

Get Really Serious About Funding Ourselves

We have to create and raise our own resources without strings attached in order to have independent sustainable grassroots movement.  Revolution will not be funded or supported by capitalism or foundations.  Call it co ops, social enterprise, hustling whatever. We need funds to fight capitalism a lot of the time. The rest of the time we should practice barter systems and other alternatives to fiat currency. Groups developing time banks and barter systems are slowly growing across the country.

Learn to Live Accountability

When the same intersections of oppression play through our bodies and actions we act like we have lost all our problem solving skills and ability to forgive. We need real commitments and opportunities to struggle through Accountability not just Proclaim it. Develop guidelines for relationship building and supporting each other to live the values and principles we love to proclaim but fall short of everyday. Falling short and hurting each other is apart of the human condition but we have lost to many groups campaigns, and people over internal conflict. Just because we are fighting the oppression doesn’t mean we are immune to perpetuating and profiting from it. We want to intellectualize and demonstrate all day for political ideas but run to our comfort zones, burnout, or drown in pain and trauma when we deceive or hurt each other. Learning how to have healthy relationships is essential to liberation.

Opportunities to Practice the Liberation

Strategizing, Visioning, dreaming, relationship building, art making and campaigns that push us towards and give us opportunities to practice the liberation we hope our children will live one day. Dancing, loving and laughing with each other is just as vital to grassroots movement-building as planning the next action.

When I finished the room, filled with mostly white people 30 and up, was tense for a few seconds before 1 of 2 people of color started crying and saying thank for articulating somethings they had been struggling with. A good part of the group shared some appreciation for my thoughts and then continued to ask me questions that defended the fight for marriage equality… go figure.

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We no speak revolution no more

Where is revolution in the black political mind?

Where are the movies about black people coming together to fight injustice?

Have we given up that vision to blend into the melting pot?

we whine no one will finance those films

so we make the color blind ,no wave making

black people in white face B.S. they love to see

Do you really think if you just work hard and don’t call attention to your blackness or your culture

that one day master will treat you like an equal or increase the size of crumbs he lets fall from the table

they exiled Assata and locked up Mumia

assassinated Oscar and shot down Trayvon like wild dogs in the streets

everyday millions are tortured in the belly of the PIC

our babies political pawns  bounced around a crumbling miseducation system

guinea pigs for private companies

experiments for bright eyed graduates

trying to eat while proving they don’t hate POC

They live to prove racism is something only poor white people do

or something their parents use to do

they are different after all they voted for Barrak

naively we leave our children’s minds in their hands

and hope they get enough education to not end up as poor as we were

being too black too proud too strong too you

too different

is too dangerous

so we no speak of revolution no more

that make master mad

that makes the black middle class uncomfortable

we no speak of revolution no more

we no create art that defies the lies of vote or die

we just keep hoping praying voting and voting and dying and dying

fill your mouths with food like products

like happy gluttons consuming Tyler Perrry sitcoms

dreaming of your place in the black middle class

laughing away from danger towards ignorant bliss

self denial and denial of self

refusing to be real about the true state of us

denying the reality of us

too ignorant of self to celebrate the complexity and beautiful medley that is us

you are too busy  dismissing the idea of a an us you need, owe, and can’t really be free without

fill your mouths with food like products

like happy gluttons consuming, buying, listening, inwardly dying

seeking refuge in religion,free enterprise, and individualism

we no speak of revolution no more

we no create art that defies

that make white man in black suit spread lies

shoot gun send tax man or brother man in blue uniform

being too black to proud to strong too you

too different

thinking critically

is too dangerous

so we no speak of revolution no more

we no speak because we don’t know who we are

and are ashamed to admit it

too proud to face the self hate

seeking the status quo for affirmation of self

for a dipped in vanilla and gold all american likeness …I mean whiteness

or anything but who they say we are in the media ness.

all the while our people are still being lynched in the streets often at the hands of the police

to often by their brothers, distant cousins or crazy uncles

our daughters still fear the walk home

and endure too many cat calls

working hard fitting in buying more and more shit never felt quite right to me

and struggling within do gooder organizations is not working for me

501c3 grant out comes chained activism is killing me

so what about this revolution thing

revolution of values cried the King

revolution in the Arts sister Sonia and brother Barakka still cry

youth rise up  reverberates through the poems of professor Eware

social change social justice whatever you want to call it

somethings got to give

revolution in the black political mind must live

it rages in me

it screams give us free

as I sit behind a desk at a non for profit

peering into a PC sweating struggling to craft the right words for funders

it moans and grumbles at the site of closed school after closed school

tired of sitting in when the deals are already done

decisions already made

your protest is but a parade

entertainment for the sheep who

drank  the free market economy and democracy will save us lemonade

so why cry revolution

we don’t speak about revolution no mo

because thats all just a fantasy

they murdered, exiled and jailed

us when we screamed that loud and proud in the 70’s

after all its 2013

haven’t you heard of Barak Obama? Oprah Winfrey?…Jay Z?

look at them if they can do it

it has to be true

if you just work hard of enough we all can one day…

we no speak of revolution no more

cause we scared, drowning or drunk off that

“the free market economy and democracy will save us” lemonade

to keep comfort we gladly

keep voting and dying

sipping and supporting

“the free market economy and democracy will save us” lemonade

after all its 2013 we prefer or revolutionary assassins

cheap, slow, sugary, and sweet

Remembering The Childrens’ March

This month is the 50th year anniversary of the Childrens’ March. The moment in the “civil rights movement”  when brave black bodies, as young as  4 years  old ,stared down dogs and firehouses to fill the Birmingham  jails and brake the back of segregation in one of the bloodiest cities in the country. Watching the movie Might Times was a powerful experience. I was coming off of a busy week and the visuals of the politicized black children being beaten  compounded my emotions.  Below is a excerpt from a longer piece that speaks to where remembering the Childrens’ March took me.


Looking Back 

This Knowledge it overwhelms me

Twists and contorts me

This information each new sentence

Makes me want to burst

placing my perceived intellect in a hearse

Life transforming, Knowledge destiny  bending visions

Glimpse into the past

bring doubts about how long freedom will last

if it ever really was

it hurts to recall the memories

To reminisce on the past

History our story is a sweet bitter pill