Monica Roberts

The sixth annual Black Trans Advocacy Conference was held in Dallas at the Marriott Quorum last week, and it included a candle-lighting ceremony to remember the nine trans women who have been murdered in the U.S. so far this year. Of those nine murder victims, eight were women of color.

“We are dying daily,” the Rev. Carmarion Anderson said. “Will I be remembered for my hard work or because I was a victim of hate? I could be one of them.”

She said black trans people are tokenized within the LGBT community.

“They’re targeting us, but not connecting with us,” Anderson said.

Resources are given to other organizations that have no employees of color who are transgender. She said that in addition to not getting employment, black trans people then don’t get full access to AIDS medication or to PrEP to prevent exposure to the HIV virus.

Black Trans Advocacy founder Carter Brown said, “More than 40 percent of us are suicidal.” And, he said, the black trans community has the highest rate of unemployment in the country.

“Society has a disgust for our bodies,” Brown said.

Following up on Brown’s remarks, Trenton Johnson, newly-crowned Mr. Black Trans International, said his platform is mental health.

“I am a survivor of several suicide attempts,” he said.

He said encourages people who are transitioning not to just go to counseling to support a name change, but to achieve spiritual wholeness.

Ms. Black Trans International is Tiffany Starr from Atlanta. Her platform is education. She talked about the abuse elderly black trans people face in nursing homes. “You’re going to hell if you don’t go back,” she said trans people in nursing facilities are told.

Trans activist Monica Roberts of Houston called the recent visibility of the trans community a double-edged sword. She said the trans community is being targeted as a reaction to the Obergefell marriage equality decision. While the Supreme Court decision ensures everyone in the LGBT community the right to marry, the right wing, which only thrives when it has a target, has found it can attack trans people with their right to use public restroom facilities.

“Our hope is someday all of us will live without feeling threatened,” she said.