America’s disregard for Black trans life was made all too clear yet again this week, as news of the murders of Riah Milton and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells rippled first through Twitter and Instagram and then up into mainstream media. As I write this, what appear to be thousands of New Yorkers have gathered outside of the Brooklyn Museum to rally and march for Milton and Fells, as well as Layleen Polanco, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and countless other Black trans people murdered by the state or by men who didn’t think that their lives mattered.
“Whether you are Black and trans or not, you have a duty to elevate Black trans power,” said activist and former executive editor of Out magazine Raquel Willis as she addressed the crowd. “I believe in Black trans power.”
Elsewhere in the city, one woman has spent the past week fighting to secure more of that power for her community. Ceyenne Doroshow—the founder and executive director of Gays and Lesbians living in a Transgender Society, or, GLITS—has spearheaded a massive fundraising campaign in the hopes of raising enough money to sign a lease on two apartments that will provide stable, long-term housing for a group of Black trans individuals in need.
According to an update this morning, they’ve managed to raise about $850,000 since Monday. This unexpected success has opened up the possibility for GLITS to buy two entire buildings, which Doroshow says would “create a permanent space to house Black trans people in New York City.”
In an interview with This Is What I Know About Art author Kimberly Drew that was streamed live on MoMA PS1's Instagram this weekend, Doroshow explained why she’s so passionate about sustaining Black trans life:
There’s so much going on in the world today behind George Floyd…[but what about] all the trans women and men that have died during covid and before covid, before last year and the year before that? We have been systematically shut out and murdered, constantly. Knees have been on our necks constantly for decades—centuries… They don’t care about us, so we have to care about us.
Elsewhere in the interview, Doroshow, who spoke at Sunday’s rally in Brooklyn, explained why stable housing matters and why it’s necessary to build a life, especially for the Black trans women who’ve been denied that stability over and over:
Creating housing is about saving people’s lives. It’s about getting them to the next step where they can be in their own kitchen, maybe butt naked or in a thong making eggs and bacon, and have the ability to look out a window and say, ‘I am home’…
We’re creating community resources that have never existed in New York City—not for us. Everything in New York City is about us, but we’re not benefiting from it. I could go to [an LGBTQ nonprofit] a thousand times a week, and all I’ll get is a MetroCard and a meal… I don’t want that. I want to create something more…
I want us to keep buying shit and building shit. I want us to be out at the farmer’s market…you know? That’s sustainability. Teaching girls and guys how to garden and having that equity and space. I don’t even garden, but the way. Don’t do it! No! Don’t like dirt. But I would love to see our community be…in that farmer’s market at Union Square. Trans women and queer community. Not white people—us, selling our goods. That’s what needs to happen. This property that we’re procuring has a natural restaurant and store downstairs. It comes with the property! You best believe it’s going to be trans-led and trans-ran. It’s going to be over! I want us to have that ownership.
Watch more of their conversation here.