THE BLOG

Trans People of Colour Are Still Fighting for Representation and Survival

21/12/2015 19:49 GMT | Updated 28/02/2017 17:30 GMT

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I am sure you already know the names of the celebrities who have come out as trans this year, the trans actors playing trans characters on television, the trans stars who have paved the way in 2015. But these trans people do not represent me. I don't write their names because they don't represent us. The colour of their skin is a reminder that trans people of colour are still fighting for representation and survival. So, has 2015 been a year to celebrate the trans community? Or has 2015 just shown us how far there is to go?

In Britain, the population of trans people is rising, and not just from what we can see in the media. Trans people are our teachers, colleagues, friends and family. Trans people are out, happy and prouder than ever. But there are still stereotypes and prejudice that keep a big chunk of the trans population hidden.

In Britain, the population of ethnic minorities is rising incredulously, and it might even be in my lifetime that I see the word 'minority' disappear. Ethnic minorities, or as I prefer, people of colour, are out; we wear our identities on our sleeve, and we don't usually have a choice in which identity is seen first. We don't usually have a choice in having more than one identity either.

Despite a multicultural Britain, prejudice and racism still thrive within ideas, and these ideas prevent many of us from coming out as trans. That's right, trans people of colour. We exist. Our identities are not single, our identities are complex, and I believe we are still fighting for this level of visibility.

The communities that are visible in the media do not often reflect the communities in Britain. We are always criticising the media for the huge influence it has, but are we doing enough to combat it? This year also saw a trans tidal wave hitting lesbian and gay organisations, and many moved to include the T. Whether T stands for trans or token is something I'm still trying to figure out. But there is a different kind of wave rising within trans organisations, groups who are already conscious of what our community looks like, and in London, it isn't what you'd see on the television.

Trans people of colour are taking up online spaces as more and more secret groups are being built by us and for us. Social media has become a lifeline for many, and we're able to make connections, and, for the first time, we feel like we are not alone.

Taking up physical space is a different story. Often people with complex identities are faced with the challenge of having to justify why they are there. For example, when I am in LGBT spaces, I have to be loud about my queer identity because my colour speaks first; yet when I am in spaces for people of colour, I have been quiet about being trans because I'd be told to go to an LGBT group instead, that this isn't the right place for me. Being out in the open also has a huge risk for trans people of colour, we are targets, and the annual international 'Transgender Day of Remembrance' is a constant reminder.

However, there is one group that is doing things right.

Gendered Intelligence, a national not-for-profit community interest company that works to improve the quality of life for trans people and increase understanding of gender diversity through creative ways. It's been running since 2008. Last year they launched a one-of-a-kind group that is making waves in a different direction altogether. Gendered Intelligence's BAME Group has been set up for trans and gender non-conforming young people (13-25 years old) who are black, Asian, and minority ethnic, including Middle-Eastern and mixed-race people. The special thing about this group is that the workers and volunteers are all trans people of colour, offering a unique arm of support that is so desperately needed. It's a safe space, for discussions about our intersecting identities to take place away from the white gaze, to find support from each other, celebrate all parts of our heritage, including culture and spirituality, and above all, to make friends. The BAME group is not just limited to support, but they have also run events open to all people of colour, and the general public, sharing history and pride.

I believe Gendered Intelligence can model both the celebration of 2015 for trans people, but also show that more can be done for the trans community in Britain today. We need to truly reflect what our community looks like, and not reflect what we are told we look like. It's time to step up and do more.

Find out more: genderedintelligence.co.uk/trans-youth/BAME