Three weeks into this new year there were already at least three transgender Americans killed. By the time then-president-elect Donald Trump was sworn into office there would be more.
Now, we are about two months away from closing out 2017 and the Human Rights Campaign statistics conclude at least 23 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed. Rewind to candidate Trump making bold promises to protect the rights of all people, but even as his one year mark in office approaches there has been a surplus for rescinding or rolling back on a number of LGBT protections — and the list is even longer for the transgender brothers and sisters among the community.
These statistics are hitting home for a number of Americans and one of them is a tattoo artist with a highly visible platform. Cobra is a cast member of VH1's Black Ink Crew: Chicago and this season the crew is getting political in a time where Chicago itself if highly embroiled in political turmoil. Violence in the city remains unacceptably high and one of the transgender people killed this year lived in Chicago. In an episode this season, Cobra designs a tattoo honoring the transgender community. Her design of a woman’s face crying tears of blood represents the lives lost; there's also tape over her mouth to represent the silence around these horrible deaths.
The Advocate caught up with Cobra to discuss her newest piece of art.
The Advocate: Talk about shooting that scene with the tattoo and the emotion you were going through during that time.
Cobra: I was thinking about a number of my friends that have taken their own lives because they felt it was so hard to find anyone who would accept them. The guy who I gave the tattoo he wanted to convey through art an image of a group of people that are being murdered and the silence. Filming that scene was truly emotional for me because I knew how much the LGBTQ community means to both of us. It’s my hope that through that tattoo it shows that there are people out here who will be the voice for so many who feel that they don’t have the voice to speak up for themselves. I will never forget the people who have suffered and continue to suffer in silence. That includes my adoptive brother who took his own life because I don’t think he could go through his transformation in public.
This subject is more than just shooting a scene for you.
Yes, absolutely. I worked in a gay community in Texas so 90 percent of that neighborhood is LGBTQ, and I see first hand the way people try to downgrade the community —it’s extremely not right. It’s time for people to say enough is enough with the discrimination on all levels. That includes our elected officials who are taking away the rights of LGBTQ people.
The Trump administration has been active in rolling back advances made within the community. Talk about how politics is making its way into the dialogue of your show, specifically around LGBT issues.
I think that all of the advances that have been made and for this administration to try and take it away or are in the process of taking it all away is completely devastating and heartbreaking. I felt like we had finally had a breakthrough for the LGBTQ community and now all of a sudden they are trying to wipe it out and it just sucks that when you want to be yourself so bad and because of that people will try and hurt you, kill you, and take away your rights. None of that makes any sense. It really hurts me to see that this is the direction our world is heading. This administration is driving us in the direction of fear and hate of one another and that’s not where we should be going.
Would you consider yourself an advocate or ally or both?
I came out a bisexual and it was a process. I will always stand up for what is right and I will be at the forefront for the LGBTQ community. I will always lend my voice on behalf of this community out into the world.
Black Ink Crew: Chicago airs Wednesday nights on VH1. Watch an exclusive clip below.
KELSEY MINOR is a two-time Emmy Award-winning journalist and freelance reporter with The Advocate. You can follow him on Twitter @theKELSEYminor