For most people, turning 35 years old is when life is just beginning. But for transgender women of color, it is common for their lives to dramatically end.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) there have been six black transgender women killed in the states with the number of victims expected to rise in the coming months.
While it is hard to understand an exact count due to lack of statistics, under-reporting as well as misgendering of victims – multiple transgender women of color were murdered in 2017 and 2018.
The HRC listed 11 transgender women of color who were killed in 2017 while an Anti-Violence Project spokesperson told The Daily Beast that as of August 2017, 13 black transgender women had lost their lives to homicide.
While in 2018, the New York City Anti-Violence Project and the HRC revealed more than two dozen transgender people were killed last year.
And while each case had its own set of circumstances, the threat of violence faced by trans women of color is very clear.
The HRC goes onto explain:
“The intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia conspire to deprive [transgender women of colour] of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable.”
According to a report by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, the average life expectancy for a transgender woman of color is 35. This is due to a result of violence.
The life expectancy for a cisgender woman in the US is 81 years old according to World Life Expectancy.
To help raise awareness, civil rights activist, Ashlee Marie Preston, decided to start a campaign encouraging transgender women of color to “re-imagine themselves somewhere other than an open casket.”
And on her 34th birthday, Ashlee launched the campaign one year ago annoucing it alongside a picture of her birthday cake which was decorated with the faces of 77 black trans women, all who had been murdered under 35 years old.
Ashlee encouraged trans women of color to use the hashtag #ThriveOver35 when posting about their birthdays in an attempt to “remind our sisters brothers and others that we’re not only surviving we’re THRIVING.”
When speaking with UNILAD about the campaign and what it represents, Ashlee shared:
“#ThriveOver35 was launched in response to data which suggests the estimated life expectancy of a black trans woman is 35 years old. The campaign is an opportunity for black trans women to [re-imagine] our lives outside of an open casket or a jail cell. Media has a tendency to fixate on the the trauma porn surrounding our murders; but rarely explore the factors which often place us in front of the barrel of the gun.”
“Not only does the #ThriveOver35 campaign examine barriers to black trans women’s ability to access employment, healthcare, housing, and social support at every level—it poses a call to action for our allies to help fill in the gap in those areas.”
Ashlee went on to share, saying:
“The campaign dissects our experiences at the intersections of race, gender, and socio-economic disparity. #ThriveOver35 is also about celebrating the brilliance and resilience of black trans women; which is still a huge area of opportunity for mainstream media to improve in.”
A year later, the activist is confident the campaign has been a success, gaining national attention on trans issues combating what Ashlee believes is one of the biggest issues faced by the community: a lack of information.
“There’s a harmful and deeply toxic narrative being promulgated that black trans women are ‘tricking men’ into being intimate with us—and that’s why we’re being murdered. This notion somehow serves as ‘justification’ for our murders and takes the urgency to address our erasure off the table. It relieves society of its responsibility to stand up for us when we’re being framed as criminal, deceptive, disingenuous.”
“The truth is that black trans women are experiencing intimate partner violence at exponential rates with just as many deadly outcomes as black cisgender women.”
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