As a black mom, I love all four of my children and do everything I can to ensure their safety and happiness. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone who could meet my kids and not fall in love with them. But I am not naive. Trinity, my oldest, is transgender and a computer whiz. My second-born, Lucien, plays the cello and is such a beautiful, sensitive boy. My third child, Hyperion, is full of energy, as any 5-year-old is, but like his big brother, he loves music and plays the violin. And finally, the baby, Thane, lights up a room with his dimpled smile. But I fear for all of them, especially Trinity.
My husband and I have worked hard to create a loving home where our children feel safe and affirmed. We homeschool them as one way to protect them from some of the harshness of the world, but we know we can’t protect them forever. Our three sons bring an added awareness of concern due to the fact that they are young men of color. We know there has been much progress fighting racism in our country, but far too many people still look at young black boys and see danger instead of children. And my daughter, Trinity, who is trans, lives at an intersection of prejudice that is terrifying, and with good reason.
We know trans people face tremendous discrimination and violence, most of all trans women of color. Just this year, eight of the 10 transgender women who have been brutally murdered were women of color. I think about those women a lot. I hear their stories, see their pictures, and think about how each of them was someone’s child. I may not have known them, but their loss saddens me. It’s truly unfathomable to me to even consider Trinity facing such hate or violence.
My daughter is my heart, I cannot lose her. Now, for Trinity and all our trans children, I am doing something about it. Never underestimate the power of a mother’s love. We’ve stood up to more bullies than can be counted. We are fierce and we will not be deterred.
That is why I am working with trans leaders and families at the Trans United Fund to bring together anyone that considers themselves a family member — of origin or choosing — to fight for our trans loved ones. We have launched the first national group of trans and gender non-conforming people dedicated explicitly to stopping the political bullies that go after our kids and our community, to passing good laws that protect our kids and the community and supporting politicians who stand with us.
Our first step is a big one and has made quite an impact already. Watch Meet My Child.
I know how hushed my community can be regarding LGBT people. Too often our families and churches, the very institutions built to sustain and protect us, instead tell us that we must choose between our blackness and our gender identity and/or sexuality. Despite the pressure to choose one part of our identity at the expense of another, the broader world makes no such distinction. In fact, it is trans people of color who disproportionately face assaults, arrests, homicides, homelessness, and HIV. While a few people have spoken out, the silence from black leadership is deafening.
As a black mom, I am committed to doing what I can to change things. One of the single most important things I can do is simply tell my story and show other families of color that they are not alone. We must create a space to support one another and create a culture where no one has to choose between their blackness, their sexuality, their gender identity, their love of g-d, and their love of family.
Trinity’s life is very important to me, and when she’s grown and on her own, she must know she won’t have to face hatred without our support. I want to make sure her own people don’t end up being her worst enemy. There is no shame in being trans, and there shouldn’t be a stigma from African-Americans. I grow very disheartened when I see bigotry and disregard to our fellow trans people. We who have faced prejudice should understand how it hurt and look toward what bring us together.
In a similar way, I fear for my sons’ lives as young black men growing up today, and I’m grateful that the faith community, standard-bearer civil rights organizations, and the new and emergent voices for justice in the black community are working to make this life safer for my sons. But what about my daughter?
If Black Lives Matter, then it should mean all black lives. Trinity is a trans girl and will one day be a trans woman of color. I don’t want her to be a statistic. There are hopeful signs — especially from the emerging, dynamic movements like Black Lives Matter — but the silence around the murder, rape, and assault of these young black women from the larger community is deafening.
Meet My Child is our first step towards changing attitudes about the trans community as a whole, with trans people of color at the center.
The response to Meet My Child has been amazing. Hundreds of thousands have seen it online, and we hope to get it to even more people via media buys. But already, people of all walks of life are reaching out and sharing with their family and friends. They are seeing they aren’t alone in this fight, and anti-trans individuals are seeing that we will stand up for our children no matter what. We will speak out against bigotry.
I know that there are people in the African-American community who have seen this, seen me and my child, and are now able to say, “I can support you because love always wins.” They see us. We are no longer a “them” or “other.” No longer an abstraction.
We’ve got a long way to go; we are not naive. But I have hope that my child’s future will be a happy and healthy one. I’m doing my part now, by advocating and speaking out, but I can’t do it alone. This video is a call to action to allies of the transgender community as well as trans people, but most of all to families of color who are still hiding in the shadows of fear of what those around them may say or think. Don’t worry. They are not as important as your child’s knowing you stand with them no matter what. If we are to be a village and stand strong in the face of oppression, the same way blacks do during times of injustice, we have to come together and fight.
Trans United Fund is an organization that is working to become a platform for change by giving parents like myself a means to speak. I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Our contribution to the trans community is making waves already, and I can only imagine, with such a powerful start, what we will plan next. The Trans United Fund will shows us as real people in all our rich diversity, which is exactly what the world needs to see. I’m proud to be part of this great organization and the opportunity to join with trans leaders and families like mine to change the world.
DESHANNA NEAL lives in Delaware with her husband and four children. She's a homeschooler, writer, and advocate. DeShanna is one of the leaders of Trans United Fund Families, recruiting, connecting and empowering all trans people and their families, particularly families of color.