the philosophactivist

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Trans* Day of Remembrance/ Resistance/Reclamation

This is a speech I gave at City Hall in Austin, Texas last year. It is printed in the zine Philosophactivism 2 and can be found HERE.

Audio coming soon...

Trans Day Of Remembrance/Reclamation/Resistance
City Hall Austin,TX

November 20,2013


Tired of survivin’/strivin’/ bribi’n …you to see my potential/credentials/my mentals/tired of survivin’/strivin’/to stay alive when/some peeps got this privilege/and all I got’s my soul to give/never thought about sex work til the economy tanked and went bisserk/became comfortable in my gender/inhabiting spaces/places/you wouldn’t wanna be/havin’ brown skin and bein’ queer/you can’t see me/invisible/and divisible/my community -is…

tired of survivin’/strivin’/hard to stay alive when…all you ever hope for is to take another breath/that you don’t catch your death/no time to worry about cultural theft/bereft/of heritage/society’s no longer sparin’ kids/so why me? You buyin’ beamers a schemer with an HDTV and all I wanna do is breathe/some fresh air/eat food with no toxicity/complicity/you blame us for/but this capitalism is pimpin’ you/yep your the whore/and …my people…are…

tired of survivin’/strivin’/to stay alive when you got ends and wealth/but we have to live our lives in stealth and assimilate/to keep food on our plate/fork and knife/we get tired of life/strife/ all these signs/the confines/bein’ on the grind/ and you can’t see the injustice/ of the majority of brown men bein’ in the prison system/ and you pushin’ for the expansion of ‘isms/

DAMN I’m JUST tired of survivin/strivin’/to stay alive when all you can think about is amassin wealth and gettin benefits/when the only benefit I get is grime and grit/and my will to uplift/my people/to awaken sheeple and zombies/but you want to be wearin’ abercrombie/and handin’ us your truth/ while poisonin’ our youth…

Man I’ma survive/stay alive/fight with each breath til the day that I die/for justice/and the end to your privilege/and white-given birthright/til the day we all know we’re descendants of kings and queens/and our spaces reflect this/til poverty and inequality/we wreck this/check this…you got a powerful enemy…but if you wanna work through this you got a friend in me…cuz we will survive! And with each death we cultivate the will to stay alive/your foot won’t be on neck for long/ we’re gonna right all these wrongs/ this isn’t rhetorical/or metaphorical/ this sh* is going to end/the patriarchy, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, will fall…it’s up to us brown folks to pick up the phone …answer the call Get involved, get this sh* solved..we barely survivin’ but without comin’ together we can’t run…but crawl.


Tonight, I want to talk to you from a place of Power.

Perhaps many of us know that surviving….waking up day to day is a miracle in itself. It’s our resistance as folks who are found carefully tucked away or perhaps violently shoved into the margins. Some of us know it’s a revolution when we can still find ways to support others when we ourselves are finding it hard to smile or eat or sleep or make it through another day.

Trans* people of color have disproportionately higher rates of incarceration, unemployment, and homelessness. We receive poorer quality health care (if any) due to multiple levels of discrimination and we are often victims of police brutality, domestic and street violence. Transwomen of color are murdered at a much higher rate.

Victims. The media, grant writers and fund developers always paint us as victims…what about those of us survivors? What about us trans folks of color who are living, ordinary superheroes who sit invisibilized in this movement 364 days of the year? Resisting behind the scenes, at the frontlines of your movements but at the margins of your minds and policies, inching ever so slowly toward our liberation with the few organizations that exist that are willing to make our needs, hopes and dreams a priority- like allgo and the Audre Lorde Project, among a handful of others.

Now, I said I was going to talk to you from a place of power but it’s important to begin by giving the proper context for this state that we’re in now. It’s also imperative to actually name the institutions and systems in place that are constantly trying to render trans folks, and more frequently, trans folks of color, powerless. Such as the legal system, institutions of education, foster care agencies, law enforcement and immigration, health care institutions, etc. And lets be more specific- the people in these institutions, holding up these systems.

It’s important to acknowledge that race further complicates this picture we paint of transphobia. Skin color further limits access to numerous systems we now need for every day survival. And many behaviors and interactions displayed by individuals and groups within the LGBT and queer community further lead to us trans folks of colors’ subjugation, exploitation and dehumanization and make it harder, and many times, impossible for us to survive.

Now that you have that background from the poem and intro…

As a brown, genderqueer I’m going to tell you what I know of my ancestors…your ancestors…our Trans* and queer predecessors because I feel it’s important for us to know who and where we came from if we are going to move from surviving to thriving. It’s important for us to understand our legacy so that we can better understand our power and purpose.

Remembrance is a form of resistance.

So let me tell you a story. Not his story not her story…but OURstory.

First Nations Elders tell of a people who were gifted among all beings because they carried two spirits, that of male and female. Some say that these individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honored and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, and the care givers. They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies not just in the Americas, also in South and East Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa and many other places around the world.

Many tribes were aware of the existence of two-spirit, gender-variant people and many still have a name in their traditional language for them.

There were rituals that determined if a child was two-spirited. Children of both genders would also spend time with healers, who were often two-spirit people. A Two-spirit child’s childhood was marked by acceptance and understanding by the whole tribe. Two-spirit folks were known to be able to 'see' with the eyes of both biological men and women. They were often called upon to be healers, mediators, interpreters of dreams, and some devoted their lives to the welfare of the group.

Two-spirit, gender non-conforming, and gender variant folks were revered for centuries. We had the gift of prophecy. We were messengers of the Creator. Keepers and teachers of spiritual principles. We were called upon to conduct burials, bless unions and births, and perform many, many other important ceremonies. Prosperity and even existence as a people depended on us and we were considered sacred.

Because we had both maleness and femaleness/masculinity and femininity totally entwined in one body, we were usually presumed to be people of power. Because we embodied both Mother Earth and Father Sky, and held both a masculine and feminine heart within our souls…two spirits…we were perceived as having twice the power.

As beings that transcended gender, we were thought to be better able to be fair. We were thought to be able to see into the hearts of both males and females. We were called on to be mediators. We were seen as bridges. Mediators between two worlds- that of Spirit and the human world, as well as mediators between partners, tribes and nations.

In older world religions the gods and goddesses in-between genders were viewed as whole-gendered and balanced.

Some say that two-spirit people are an affirmation of humanity’s pre-gendered Unity, the representatives of a form of solidarity and wholeness which transcends the division of humans into men and women. A third gender.

When people operate from a dual gender perspective, upholding the gender binary, one can only imitate the behavior of one the given two genders leaving no room for authenticity for those of us who don’t identify with either of these genders.

Transgender and Gender variant folks transcend conformity and in this patriarchal society set on two genders and the dominance of one over the other, we pay the price.

European colonialism has had a harmful effect on many transgender traditions all over the world. Occupation and religion has erased and destroyed a lot of our history and we have been forced to assimilate into a social construction that does not work for us. Will we continue to perpetuate it at the expense of being usurped of our power?

We have to continue to resist being othered. Resist marginalization. Question those boxes that we were not born to fit in.

We have been awakening to our Truth. It is imperative for us to continue reclaiming our cultural and spiritual roots even though our histories and our ways have been suppressed or, in some cases, completely destroyed during colonization and assimilation. We must continue to resist. We must refuse to be erased. We have to assume our rightful place as teachers, healers, and leaders.

Though I am a Trans* person of color, I am not a statistic. Though this day is about remembering those who have not survived, I am alive and already fully aware of the hardships that we face, through my own life experiences. I don’t need to read articles or theorize about what barriers I face. I live this every day.

Allies who are listening. Allies who have been deemed allies by the trans community, if you want to be a better ally…if you want to “help” us…help us to rediscover our legacy. Help us to rediscover our spiritual inheritance. Help us to stand in our power. Programs and services are great but they are not about autonomy. They are not about sovereignty. Help us find ways to develop our own leadership skills and abilities so we can reclaim our place among the leaders and healers of today. Help us to celebrate our cultural roots. Help us to acknowledge our predecessors . Help us to create a more just and equitable world no longer based on the colonizer’s ideas of acceptable gender roles and presentation. Challenge and smash the binary daily with your actions and remember us every day…whether we’ve passed on or if we are alive. Remember us invisiblized survivors that walk amongst you every day.

Queer and Trans* family. Let’s lift each other up and support each other. We need to be in solidarity. We need to take part in community/communal healing as self-care. Not that covertly individualistic happy hippy kind. The kind where we are patient, acknowledge and honor our struggle and pain. We need to work through our internalized transphobia, internalized sexism, internalized racism and other types of oppression. We’ve got to respect our bodies and honor ourselves. Share our stories and histories and nourish each other’s spirit in good company. Audre Lorde once said that self-care was not a self-indulgence but a form of self-preservation which is an act of political warfare.

Self-care is survival. Self-care and community care is resistance. 

And we need to survive. We need to rediscover our power and reclaim our birthright. We are beautiful beings. Powerful beings.

And white queer and trans* folks, acknowledge your privilege in this movement. See that your brown siblings, are suffering and take action to help them take steps toward their own liberation and autonomy.

No one can live with ease while others suffer. There can be no liberation while anyone experiences subjugation or exploitation.

We queer and Trans* folks cannot know our own complete histories without acknowledging those of our siblings. We cannot be whole without realizing we are only a part of the whole. A drop in the sea.

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