‘No more rainbow capitalism’ in protests about Black trans lives

Black Trans Lives Matter rally in the Brooklyn borough in New York City, June 14, 2020 – Image: REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

(Reuters) – Protests and marches for the rights of Black trans people drew thousands to the streets under the banner of ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ in recent weeks, amid global demonstrations against racism.

Reuters digital editors, Ben Kellerman and Arlene Washington, hosted a conversation featuring the Black trans community as part of the #AskReuters Twitter chat series, during the close of Pride month in June.

Below are edited highlights.

In what ways have Black trans people been disproportionately affected by the pandemic?

“The pandemic has highlighted the disparities in access to healthcare that Black people have always faced. Trans people, in particular, face discrimination when it comes to accessing care and have relied on clinics and community centers many of which closed during the lockdowns. Many Black trans people are dealing with housing insecurity and employment discrimination that increase opportunities to be exposed to coronavirus while limiting the ability to pay for what care they are able to access.”

— Brian Michael Smith, actor and advocate

How can white and non-Black queer people be better activists and allies, on and offline?

“I think social media can be a really vital and excellent tool for communicating ideas that we might not otherwise be able to introduce to the national and international stage. I think we can all stand to speak more openly and honestly and to listen more deeply when we mess up.”

— Ianne Fields Stewart, founder of The Okra Project

What do you want the future of Pride to look like?

“I’d like to see Pride celebrations be blacker and browner and femme-ier than ever before. Uplifting all body types, all abilities and all identities.”

— Peppermint, advocate and former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant

“I want the future of Pride to look more like the people who created it. I want us to take joy in celebration AND in resistance. I want to see rainbows painted on the ashes of the system that consistently tries to murder and silence Black trans people. No more rainbow capitalism.”

— Ianne Fields Stewart

What gives you hope now?

“At this moment right now people are out fighting for our freedoms … People are waking up to the imbalances in this world, to the injustices in this world. And they are saying that enough is enough. They are taking to the streets. They are joining the community, even in the midst of the pandemic, to fight for the change we so desperately need, and we are asking for.”

“So I am very hopeful that we are seeing the first incidences of real progress and change in this country. People are giving up their comforts. They are really checking within themselves. If we can continue on that path, anything is possible. Justice is possible. And equality can be possible here.”

— Brian Michael Smith

-Editing By Lauren Young and Aurora Ellis

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