Trans + Allies Kicks off Pride Month with Women of Color Panel

Nyla Foster, a transgender advocate with the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project (KCAVP), kicked off UMKC’s pride month by highlighting the danger transgender woman face everyday.

The statistics, she said, speak for themselves. One out of every 12 transgender person is murdered, and for transgender people of color that number jumps to a staggering one out of every eight.

“The stories we hear about trans woman of color are about murder and depression,” said Foster, speaking a to a group of students, staff and local social workers at the Trans + Allies April meeting.

While these threats are real and cannot be overlooked, Foster believes there is more to her community than scary statistics and threats of violence.

She listed off prominent trans figures like Janet Mock, who spoke at last year’s Pride Month lecture, this year’s speaker Angelica Ross and actress Laverne Cox as personal inspirations.

“We’re following in their footsteps and lifting that narrative,” said Foster.

To help works towards that goal, KCAVP works closely with local media to reduce misrepresentation. When an act of violence occurs, some media outlets use the victim’s legal name and refer to them using masculine pronouns.

“We have to research names of victims and find out who they really are,” said Riquell Washington, who spoke alongisde Foster and two other local trans activists at last Monday’s meeting.

The woman covered a broad range of topics including self defense, legislation, family relationships, and more in an effort to give their audience a better understanding of their experiences as transgender women of color.

While all trans people overcome structural and social obstacles, these women say the intersection of race and gender identity comes with its own unique nuances.

“The big issues for me are having a roof over my head, food, gas, water, health insurance, and things like that,” said Korea Kelley. “Before I think legislation, I have to think of myself.”

Access to healthcare and adequate counseling is a major issue for many transgender woman of color. This barrier can lead many to focus first on their outward gender expression, like clothing, hair, and makeup, before they begin working with medical professionals to transition with hormones.

“We, as trans people of color, often get our look together first,” said Kelley. “A white trans woman with better health insurance might have an easier time getting psychological referrals to start hormones before getting their look together.”

“People of color might try to get black market hormones because of this, too,” she added.

Kelley said that even though this transitioning process might seem “backwards” to other, more privileged members of the trans community, “We are some seriously strong girls because of what we go through.”

Besides adding a sense of positivity and honesty to the dialogue surrounding trans women of color, Foster and her fellow advocates at KCAVP — the only organization specifically aimed at reducing violence against LGBTQIA people in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska — provide support and training for trans people and their allies through a variety of programs and services.

Despite the uphill battle faced by trans woman of color around the world, Foster finds strength in her community’s ability to push through their struggles and live their truths.

“I’m so inspired by our ability to survive,” she said. “Even though the odds have been stacked against us our entire lives.”

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