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What Happened For Black Transgender People When Police Protests And Pride Converged

On June 14, an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Brooklyn to rally for Black trans lives in the Brooklyn Liberation march.
Imara Jones
Courtesy Imara Jones
On June 14, an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Brooklyn to rally for Black trans lives in the Brooklyn Liberation march.

June 2020 was a pride month that looked different from past years, and not just because people were socially distancing and wearing masks: Demonstrations for LGBTQ equality overlapped with protests against violence and systemic racism against Black people.

At the intersection of these two fights for equality are Black transgender people.

Imara Jones, an independent journalist and founder of TransLash media, told NPR's All Things Considered, that this moment has been "a crucible."

"The marriage of these two issues at the same time has been incredibly intense, but if you look at the history of the two movements, in many ways it makes sense that they actually are occurring at the same time," Jones said. "They have so many cross links. People involved in one were involved in the other. They both have similar roots in terms of what they are all about."

Jones was referring to the Stonewall riots — in which police violently raided New York's Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. The resulting protests, which were led by Black and brown transgender and nonbinary people, focused on police brutality and led to the first Pride march one year later.

She said that "in a much larger frame, it makes sense" that the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ movement have converged. "But it has been incredibly intense." In June alone, at least four Black trans women were killed: Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells, Riah Milton, Brayla Stone and Merci Mack.

Fifty years after the Stonewall riots, on June 14, 2020, organizers estimated 15,000 people gathered in Brooklyn to march for Black trans lives in the Brooklyn Liberation rally. It's believed to have been the largest ever gathering in support of Black trans people.

"Black trans people are the most marginalized of the marginalized in every single way that's imaginable," Jones said. "And of course the irony, as well, of this moment is that the very people who helped to start the fight for LGBTQ rights have not benefited from the movement that they started."

There's one message Jones wants people to remember as the movement for equality continues on all fronts: Trans people are people.

"I think that what happens is that we're so easily caricatured and dehumanized, and so once we dismiss people, we don't hear them, we don't believe that their concerns are valid, we don't look to hire or to fight for equality, and so I think that's the most important thing," Jones said. "And the second thing is that when we leave certain groups of people behind, the rights of everyone are fragile. You should care about us if you care about yourself."

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Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.