Janet Mock filled in for MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry on her eponymous show Sunday and took the opportunity to recognize the staggering violence directed against trans women and #SayHerName.
Beginning the segment with an acknowledgment of some recent victories for trans visibility, including last week's news that Raffi Freedman-Gurspan became one of the first out transgender White House staffers, Mock's tone quickly shifted.
"The killings of three transgender women were reported over a 24-hour period. Another was killed the following day," stated the award-winning author, trans advocate, and host of Shift on MSNBC's streaming show So POPular.
She then moved forward to reflect on the somber statistics facing transgender women in this country -- particularly women of color. Mock continued:
"Their deaths bring the total of killings of trans women in America this year to 17. ... A number that already exceeds last year's complete total. Fifteen of the 17 women killed were black or Latina."
For more than two minutes, Mock said the name of every transgender woman reported killed in the U.S. this year, including a brief summary of the way each woman died. The Advocate has been tracking these murders and maintains a running tally with the latest details on each death here.
"These women are more that just a compilation of names and ages and stories of violence and trauma," Mock continued. "They were people. People living at a vulnerable intersection of race, gender, and class. People existing in a culture where they fell in between the cracks of racial justice, feminist, and LGBT movements. People whose names are only spoken by the majority of us when they can no longer respond."
"Today we learn their stories ad say their names, not out of obligation, but out of recognition that these 17 women had value, had purposes, and were loved," she concluded. "And they will be missed."
In the time since Mock's segment aired Sunday, a woman killed in June in Kansas City, Mo., was recognized as a transgender woman. Jasmine Collins, 32, had initially been identified in police and media reports as a male, given the state-issued identification she was carrying at the time she was killed. A 33-year-old resident of Kansas City named Tia Townsel has been arrested and faces second-degree murder charges; Townsel is accused of stabbing Collins to death in the course of an argument over a pair of shoes.
And Mock isn't the only trans person in media noticing the media's silence on the epidemic of anti-trans violence. Spoken-word artist Vita Elizabeth Cleveland has recorded a powerful response to Janelle Monae and Wondaland's protest anthem "Hell You Talmbout," which lists the names of presumably cisgender (nontrans) black Americans killed by police and vigilantes.
But those efforts and the dominant narrative of the #BlackLivesMatter movement have failed to give space to the black transgender women who are being murdered at a staggering rate, writes Cleveland, who is a member of awQward Talent, an agency for trans and gender-nonconforming artists of color.
Like "Hell You Talmbout," Cleveland's track, "Hell Y'all Ain't Talmbout," focuses on the names of black people murdered in the U.S. But in Cleveland's track, listeners will hear the names of black trans women killed because of who they are.
Monae's track, Cleveland writes in the song's description, is powerful, but "once again proved to the world that even within the minds and spirits of black people, our black trans siblings are left behind, even in death. This track is a call to those that have forgotten us, as well as a chance to lift of my fallen black trans symbols, who should have been lifted up in the first place."
Listen to Cleveland's track, "Hell Y'All Ain't Talmbout," below.
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