Black feminism

#SayHerName: How Women of Color Memorialize Transgender Victims of Violence

Sunday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day honors who died due to anti-transgender violence:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. 1

Transgender people, in particular transgender women of color, become targets of violence due to stigma about non-binary gender identities.

Mainstream media generally fails to bring attention to this violence. Social media, however, has been a significant platform for uplifting and memorializing transgender people who lose their lives.

For instance, when I looked at hashtags associated with #SayHerName between late January and October, I found that at least 21 transgender women named in corresponding hashtags. The majority of these women were victims of homicide. One had died in police custody and another was missing.

Yet, when I went to correspond the name of victims with news accounts, I most often found that independent media or bloggers were the only ones to report on this violence. This suggests to me that citizen journalism2 is particularly significant in highlighting violence against transgender women of color.

Most of these independent media and bloggers were platforms meant to uplift women of color, Black women in particular. For instance, BlackGirlTragic.Com consistently provided information not only about Black women who lost their lives to violence but also girls and non-Black women of color. Furthermore, they bring attention to violence that women face throughout the Diaspora, rather than the United States alone. exemplifies these platforms in that they are intentional about their mission to uplift Black women:

This site arose from a need to disrupt the traditional 24/7 news cycle, which focuses on one crisis and moves to another. Our goal at Black Girl Tragic is to highlight the discrimination, abuse, mistreatment, unfairness and tragedy inflicted upon women of color throughout the diaspora. 3

Black women use social media to act as citizen journalists, subverting the barriers of traditional institutions of media and journalism through the use of digital technology. Transgender Black women, then, are memorialized as a labor of love by Black women who see themselves as capable of making change by taking their message to the digital sphere.

  2. “Citizen participation in the media, or contribution of user generated content or ‘citizen journalism’ as it’s commonly known is a growing phenomenon in some ways. Its benefits are that audiences witnessing incidents can post eyewitness accounts on the Internet as soon as they happen or send a report and photos to the media. Citizen journalism also dwells a lot on analysis and debate of issues and stories appearing in mainstream media. Unlike journalists in the mainstream media, citizen journalists can be anonymous contributors with no journalism training.”