I learned of Tamara Dominguez’s death on a Monday night.
My heart was struck. I catapulted to my bedroom floor, disintegrating into an emotional earthquake. Gripping my body to force comfort, I couldn’t breathe, feeling the collective grief and mourning of my people throughout the country.
This country is a minefield for trans women of color.
Maybe you haven’t heard of this epidemic. Or maybe you’ve seen a headline or two as you scrolled through your Facebook feed. In 2015 alone, here are the trans women of color in the U.S. who are no longer able to perform the revolutionary act of breathing: Papi Edwards, Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Yasmin Vash Payne, Taja DeJesus, Penny Proud, Kristina Gomez Reinwald, Keyshia Blige, Vanessa Santillan, Mya Hall, London Chanel, Mercedes Williamson, India Clarke, Amber Monroe, Shade Schuler, Kandis Capri, Elisha Walker, and Tamara Dominguez.
How many deaths will it take before you can recognize a genocide?
These eighteen trans women of color can no longer breathe because they were murdered. Their ages spanned from early 20s to mid-30s. Their numbers are creeping closer and closer to the ever-rising number of 2016 presidential candidates. But at the forefront of mainstream news, this isn’t a significant atrocity.
In the midst of my emotional breakdown, my phone rang with a call from Charleston, Illinois. I desperately answered, needing to hear another warrior’s voice.
“You’re not alone,” one of my close friends, a fellow trans woman, immediately told me. I’d once once watched her fight emotional violence from a middle-aged cisgender man, and her words came as reassurance that we were going to be alright.
The war of sanctioned violence towards trans women of color has always remained in my neighborhood. Walking to catch my train from a metro station to my part-time sex educator job in “business-cute” attire is triggering. I never know if strangers will openly object or if this is my last day on Earth, yet I survive every time.
In Washington, D.C., from my house in Columbia Heights, the resounding energy from the Supreme Court steps after marriage equality was declared unconstitutional penetrated my window. In the aftermath of “victory,” I feel more justified in becoming rebellious in my work and personality.
My trans, queer and gender non-conforming ancestors of color birthed movements for sexual and gender equity and liberation, yet we, their children, have become the outcasts. Twenty three years after the murder of Marsha P. Johnson, the person responsible has never been apprehended.
If you need an idea of America’s transmisogynistic discrimination and hatred, you don’t have to look far. Look to the police reports misgendering us, your precious television sitcoms and sketch shows using us as foundation for their puns, and the sensationalism that accompanies every coming out story. Watch the Stonewall film this fall and bear witness to the continuing erasure of our history.
I leave home prepared in metaphorical battle uniform and camouflage face paint. When I come back, the paint has smeared and there’s dust on my uniform. But I still have stored strength to walk up the steps, lock my door, and rest. This cycle repeats.
We are screaming genocide until we suffer from hoarse vocals, recuperate, and start again.
When you read the names of trans women of color murdered since 2011, when you see their faces, answer this: do you feel free while someone else is screaming at you about their pain?
Answer carefully. We are all looking, and listening, to you.