I have sat for days, seeing the many murders of trans women, particularly trans women of color, trying to write up my feelings. Trying to express what's been going through my mind. All I could muster up is, I'm heartbroken. I'm hurting. I'm so, so very scared.
Trinity caught me crying after the recently reported murder of Dee Whigham, a black trans woman, and asked me why anyone would kill someone who did nothing wrong. I told her I didn't know. Then my conversation turned into one I didn't think I'd ever have to have.
Granted, while having three black sons, I've had some pretty serious conversations on what they'd need to do so they can come back home to me alive, but this particular discussion was vastly different. Crying, I held her close and begged her to listen to me. I explained that while most will see her and not question her gender identity, when the time came that she found someone she liked and wanted to be intimate with, reactions could vary.
Ideally, I want to believe that by the time she's an adult and getting into relationships, our world will be in a better place. It will feel and think differently. Society will view her as not simply a trans person, but a beautiful, loving human being. Even now, I’m seeing great progress in the way the trans community is embraced and heard.
Recently, my family had the honor of meeting with Delaware's Democratic Gov. Jack Markell, alongside District Representative Paul Baumbach, and we discussed how hard both of them worked to make sure trans people, young and old, of all ethnicities, were protected from discriminatory practices. And while we all talked of the changes that have been made, we also agreed that more needed to be done. That’s why, I have hope that Trinity’s world will be a much better place, realistically, there’s a possibility that we’ll still be as we are now.
I’m not one who panics often. In fact, majority of the time, I take hateful comments and sentiments with a grain of salt. However, my daughter is getting older. In a few months she’ll be a teenager, and in five years she’ll be an adult. I tell her constantly how difficult growing up and living as a functioning grown up can be at times, yet I also never imagined that I needed to add "Someone might want to murder you" to that list of concerns. No parent wants to have that worry, and here I am, sitting with her in my arms, shaking and crying, doing just that.
Cheek resting on top of her head, I told her to be careful. More than careful. To take her time and feel people out before telling them about herself. Not lie or omit, but listen to her gut before disclosing personal information to a possible partner. That when she was ready to talk about it, do so with someone present so she'd have protection just in case they lost their cool. I know she wants surgery down the road, and I was so close to pleading with her that once she got it to never tell anyone she was transgender. I know that's awful and very selfish of me, but my fear and my heart just couldn't handle it. I wouldn't be able to bear if someone took her from me because they didn't know how to be accepting and loving.
I wanted to say to her, just tell them you aren't able to have children. Tell them anything to hide yourself. That way they will never know and won't hurt you. But I didn't say that. I didn't because as her mother, I'm proud of who she is and who she's become and look forward to seeing who she'll grow to be. She is a strong, black, beautiful young woman who aspires to be a coder and create video games that feature gender-diverse characters. It is that knowledge of her hopes and dreams that I refuse to let fear dictate my life nor will I allow it to stop hers from thriving.
So this is my message to the cowards who choose to take the life of a trans person, because you are cowards in my eyes.
I'm a mama bear, and while I may not always be around to protect my daughter, she's got three pretty tough, loyal brothers and a strong, loving father. She's got a village that stands beside her every step of the way. So when you do see her out and about, realize she's not alone. She's never alone. And you will sense that about her. You will not prevail in your hate. I'm watching. We're watching. And we are strong.
As is she.
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.