Unapologetic Centering and Giving Credit Where It’s Due:
Trans and Queer People of Color
by Julia Feliz
Can a movement truly create change without taking the voices of those it claims to want to support into account?
Simply put, the answer is “no”.
While this truth is painfully obvious to Communities of Color, the white-led and centered LGBTQIA+ community still fails to recognize the effects of intersecting oppressions on Black and Brown bodies and the need to center the most marginalized in its community. A recent example of this was last year’s unveiling of yet another new Pride flag design – “Reboot Pride Flag” – designed by a white queer non-binary demi-guy. The flag claimed to be a symbol of inclusion and raised over $25,000 for the designer – on the back of People of Color and with a design suspiciously based on the Pride flag of Countries of Color, including the Puerto Rican Pride Flag. The colonizer explained of their design that, “The 6 stripe LGBTQ flag should be separated from the newer stripes because of their difference in meaning, as well as to shift focus and emphasis to what is important in our current community climate.” However, just from this statement from the designer themselves, the Reboot flag design ignored what is most needed by the movement, which is the centering of the most vulnerable – not further exclusion because of our differences or yet another performative symbol committed to the continuous silencing of Trans and Queer People of Color (TQ PoC).
Black and Brown Trans Women/MaGe (marginalized genders) are targeted and murdered at the highest rates out of any member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Latinx are more likely to identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community and LGBTQIA+ People of Color experience higher rates of attacks and discrimination than white LGBTQIA+ folks. Yet, “What does race have anything to do with Pride or sexuality?” is an all-too-familiar response from a very white-centered movement invested in cosmetic progress and shallow inclusion. Ironically and sadly, homophobic People of Color often find themselves repeating the same question, as they also tend to ignore the uncomfortable interconnections of race, gender, and sexuality as it applies to their own communities. As TQ PoC battle being caught in the middle of intersecting oppressions and communities, the question remains, as we roll into the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and the upcoming Pride season, whether are we ready to raise our own voices, finally decenter whiteness for good, unapologetically center our own, and ensure that credit for the movement is given where it’s due.
As a response, artist Julia Feliz, a gendervague, pansexual, Black and Indigenous Native Puerto Rican, approached the Trans and Queer Community of Color to design a flag that was unique yet powerful in declaring what TQ PoC actually need from the LGBTQIA+ movement. The goal was to bridge the history of the movement and at the same time, centre those like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major, and Victoria Cruz – Trans Black and Brown Women/MaGe/People of Color – who led the way for Pride/the modern LGBTQIA+ movement and are currently, the most targeted by homophobia and transphobia. This is how the TQ PoC New Pride Flag came into existence. Feliz explained, “The ‘TQ PoC New Pride Flag’ features the Trans flag intersecting the original Rainbow flag while centring Black and Brown People of Color, in honour, memory, and acknowledgement that we must center people in the most vulnerable positions, to achieve liberation for all.”
Going further with an anti-capitalist goal, the flag design was created to be used by all but to especially create awareness and raise money to support Black and Brown trans MaGe from those with privilege. Feliz explained that, “The TQ PoC New Pride Flag was created FOR the people it is meant to support. This isn’t about my making money and should never be. This is about supporting the most marginalized in the movement. The only restriction placed on the flag is that if merch is going to be sold that at least 50 percent of the money made should go towards supporting Black Trans people.” After months of crowdfunding last fall, the grassroots campaign raised enough money to print a batch of sticker. By the end of 2018, we were able to donate what we had raised from stickers and other merch sales on the site to Cookie’s Joint, Harlem, a pantry and crisis support organization for TQ PoC, TGI Justice Project, a Black-led TQ PoC organization, and the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, which is specifically working to help migrant TQ PoC. For 2019, the grassroots campaign has teamed up with Jery Che, a Trans & Queer Non-Binary PoC and owner of the Etsy shop “Stick to Resist” in order to help make stickers and pins as accessible as possible.
And about the flag and design in the words of TQ PoC themselves…
Kez Zekial McSaint, a U.S. American Queer/Questioning/Post-modern Non-Binary Gender-Expansive Black Trans Man, heartedly expressed that, “I would like to see the ‘TQ PoC New Pride Flag’ become a modern symbol. The LGBTQ+ community is about having solidarity with one another within the community and uplifting each other as a community. It’s something that’s intentional about that solidarity between us that centers the most vulnerable of us. At first, I was a bit scared, because I know that some people would see this as a divide when other not-as-visible groups within the community are being purposefully witnessed. But even with the initial unease, it’s important. And looking at it is beautiful. It felt like this was acknowledging and honoring the trailblazers of our community. I know that when I see someone hold this flag, they would know their history too, and that they chose to carry that with them.”
Selena Caemawr, a Black Trans, Non-Binary person from Wales, added that, “If part of Pride is about acceptance, then we must start first from within our movement, and then emanate it outwards. Those who are allies and bear this flag already demonstrate to me that equality, acceptance, and progression are important to them, and therefore that I am welcome to be a part of their lives.” About the ‘TQ PoC New Pride Flag’ and what it would mean to them, Aquila Hope, an Afro Transfeminine Non-Binary person, explained, “The mainstream has forgotten how pivotal Trans People of Color have been to LGBTQ+ culture as a whole. It time that the trailblazers were given more time than just a nod. For this flag to become the symbol of the modern LGBTQIA+ movement … would mean a HUGE deal for me, as it would put one of the most marginalized groups front and center. That can only be a good thing.”
Help us spread the flag EVERYWHERE and raise money for TQ PoC!