Rainbow Rant: Apologies aren't enough while black trans women are being murdered

Joy Ellison
A person at the rally holds up a sign that reads, "Trans Rights Are Human Rights." The rally was held at the Ohio Statehouse on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018.

In early November, Stonewall Columbus finally apologized for its complicity in the police violence against the Black Pride 4 during its 2017 Columbus Pride parade. I bet you’re expecting me to weigh in on that. I could dissect the organization's statement and try to suss out its sincerity. I could weigh each word against Ma’at’s feather, but I’m no Anubis. Besides, my assessment of Stonewall’s apology doesn’t matter much.

Only the members of the Black Pride 4 can accept Stonewall Columbus’ apology, and they have firmly rejected it. Kendall Denton, one of the Black Pride 4, said that Stonewall Columbus didn’t approach them directly or offer any form of restitution. Denton also argued that Stonewall should have made “a concerted effort to contact us and negotiate some sort of compensation and a reinvigorated dedication to the LGBT community as a whole.”

In other words, Stonewall Columbus took no steps to change its relationship with the Black Pride 4. To negotiate recompense would be to treat the activists as equals, to acknowledge them as people making legitimate demands. I’m sad to say that Stonewall Columbus doesn’t seem ready to do that.

I’m beginning to wonder, however, if debating the sincerity of Stonewall Columbus’ statement distracts from a more important, much more urgent issue: violence against black trans women.

Instead of worrying about Stonewall Columbus, we could be organizing. That’s what Black Queer & Intersectional Collective (BQIC) has been doing. On Nov. 2, the group held a march in support of Black trans women, calling attention to the fact that at least 20 have been murdered in 2019 so far. As protesters gathered in front of Stonewall’s offices, they reminded us of the lives that are at stake.

The most recent trans woman to be murdered in the United States was Brianna “BB” Hill. She deserves to be remembered as a person, not merely a name, so here is what I’ve learned about her. Hill was a model. She kept a vibrant vlog. She used to walk in local balls as a member of the house of Dior. In the photographs she left behind you can see her still, resplendent in gold hoop earrings, perfect lipstick, razor sharp brows and meticulous winged eye liner. She was young, only 30 years old.

Hill lived in Kansas City, Missouri. She was the fourth trans woman of color in 2019 to be murdered in that city alone.

The unrelenting violence against black trans women was part of what motivated the Black Pride 4 to disrupt the 2017 Pride parade in the first place. It’s why we must demand better of all LGBT organizations, not just Stonewall Columbus. It’s why we must demand better of ourselves.

How many of us can honestly say that we are doing everything we can to support and protect Black trans women? If we aren’t, we owe apologies, too.