Until we all work together, not on symbolic inclusion, but on free treatments for HIV, on access to housing and food and education, on dismantling violent border regimes and on the decriminalisation of sex work and drug use, then we will be doing the work of racial capitalism.
On this Trans Day of Remembrance, we mourn over 350 known trans and gender-nonconforming people whose lives have been tragically lost over the past year to acts of transphobic, transmisogynistic, anti-Black, and anti-Indigenous violence, as well as the unknowable numbers of those whose deaths have been misreported or not reported at all.
This year has seen an increase in violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people worldwide, making one thing clearer than ever: passive remembrance is not enough. As aspiring revolutionaries, we are called to honour the memories of the lives lost by radically transforming the social conditions that enable and sustain this violence. And in order to transform these conditions, we must first understand them correctly. The so-called “trans community” is not a monolith of uniformly oppressed people, but a vast and diverse category in which experiences of oppression and violence diverge sharply along lines of race, class, and gender. This year’s data, as compiled by the Trans Murders Monitor, shows that 82% of recorded murders occurred in Central and South America; 43% were of (primarily Black and Indigenous) trans women in Brazil, who have faced heightened violence under the fascist Bolsonaro regime. In Europe, which has also seen widespread turns toward open fascism, 50% of recorded murders were of migrants. In the United States, 79% were of people of colour — again, mostly Black and Indigenous trans women, who were increasingly targeted over the summer by fascist backlash against the anti-police/anti-racism uprisings that vocally prioritised Black trans liberation and leadership as well as decolonisation and Indigenous sovereignty. Furthermore, an overwhelming 98% of murders of trans people worldwide were of trans women or transfeminine people, and of victims whose occupation was known, 62% were sex workers.
In other words, the majority of what many bourgeois trans rights organisations refer to broadly as “anti-trans” violence is in fact specifically colonial, capitalist, misogynist, anti-Black, and anti-Indigenous in nature. Too often, this day of mourning is made into a spectacle in which the most structurally privileged trans people — those who are neither transmisogyny-affected, nor Black/Indigenous/colonised, nor impoverished or economically disenfranchised — vicariously imagine themselves as potential targets of violence that in fact largely bypasses them (and indeed, even benefits them). What should be a sincere rite of mourning instead functions as a kind of emotional appropriation, in which white settler and bourgeois trans people seek to displace themselves from their actual material positions within racial capitalism. They then propose responses to structural transphobia that only serve their own class interests, campaigning for increased visibility, legal recognition, and inclusion/assimilation into the very same capitalist and colonial-imperialist systems that generate violence against the most marginalised trans and gender-nonconforming people globally.
To end oppression of all trans and gender-nonconforming people, but most urgently and particularly those facing racial/colonial and misogynistic oppression, there is only one solution: racial capitalism must be dismantled, white supremacy and imperialism must be destroyed, colonised lands must be decolonised — and new systems, in which trans and gender-nonconforming people can live full lives unfettered by violence in any form, must be built instead. As we remember all those lost this year, may their memories ignite in each of us the courage and conviction to bring about transformative change and justice in their names.