Black Trans people are militants, organizers, healers, educators, and cultural producers who have been catalysts in the George Floyd Rebellion and ongoing Black Liberation and abolitionist projects.

The State used her as an example to deploy white gender hierarchies and invalidate the presence of white supremacy and police terror faced by Black communities in the American South and beyond.

Over 100 years since Frances was sentenced to die in a Memphis chain gang, the State continues to brutalize and silence Black Trans people. In February 2008, Duanna Johnson, a Black Transwoman was brutally beat by two police officers in a Memphis county jail. When the surveillance video of the officers beating Duanna with handcuffs over knuckles and pepper-spraying her in the face went viral on the internet, Duanna spoke out against the realities of police terror in local press and launched a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Memphis Police Department.

But nine months after the FBI opened the inquiry into the MPD and just weeks before her case was set to go to trial, Duanna was found murdered “execution style” near her home in downtown Memphis. Over 10 years have passed since Duanna’s murder, and the police still allegedly have no suspects, have made no arrests and have not determined a motive for her murder…

The pre-COVID-19 unemployment rate of Black Trans people in the United States was double that of all trans people, and four times that of the united states general population.

Transphobic workplace conditions under capitalism are coupled by extraordinary rates of domestic violence (deployed by family members and partners) and anti-Black transphobic hate violence (deployed by vigilantes and police). This exacerbates Black Trans homelessness and participation street economies that are criminalized by the State, thus funneling Black Trans people into captivity as part of mass incarceration and the prison industrial-complex. It is also important to note that one in three transgender people are sexually assaulted while incarcerated, with transwomen being 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in prison than cisgender people.

The State’s “solution” to “protecting” Trans people in prison is solitary confinement — a practice that is considered torture by the United Nations.

“They wanted to force me to be someone that I wasn’t. They wanted me to delegitimize myself as a Trans woman — and I was not taking that. As a Trans woman — as a proud Black Trans woman — I was not going to allow the system to delegitimize and hyper-sexualize and take my identity away from me.

These are the words of Black Trans abolitionist and survivor CeCe McDonald.

“I felt like they wanted me to hate myself as a Transwoman . . . prisons aren’t safe for anyone, and that’s the key issue.”

Since her release in 2014, CeCe has been integral in bringing to light conditions surrounding Trans prisoners and calls to make policing and prisons obsolete. As calls to “abolish police” and “abolish prisons” are co-opted and watered down to “defund the police” and “reform prison”, we are reminded that total abolition, community control, and collective care must be our platforms. CeCe reminds us,

“Police choose who they want to protect, they choose who they want to serve. Prisons don’t help our communities, police don’t help our communities. They make them worse . . . We keep each other safe.”

“We always felt that the police were the real enemy. We expected nothing better than to be treated like we were animals and we were.” — Sylvia Rivera

In the most recent report on LGBTQ and HIV-affected hate and partner violence, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, found that 6% (or 3 of 52) of the documented hate violence homicides involving a LGBTQ victims in need of support, resulted in the police killing them.

Three of the fifty-two queer and Trans victims in 2017 who had called the police to receive relief during an act of hate violence, were then MURDERED by police responding to their calls.

Thirty years in the making, GLITS Inc. held their ribbon cutting ceremony last week, celebrating the opening of the first ever housing complex by and for Black Trans people.


“Layleen Polanco’s Mother Sues NYC After Her Daughter’s Death at Rikers” by Kate Sosin at LOGO. (2019)



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Abolitionist Law Center

Abolitionist Law Center

ALC is a nonprofit law firm fighting to protect prisoners, and a community organizing project aiming to build a world without prisons.