SEATTLE – Beyonce Black St. James, a performer and Black transgender woman, has been inundated with forms of sexual harassment, doxxing (a targeted form of cyberbullying that releases an individual’s private information to the public), and threats from white nationalists due to vilification in media coverage regarding her performance at the All Home Homelessness System Conference in Seattle on Monday, December 9, 2019.
Ms. St. James was recruited to speak at the conference to bring awareness to the struggles faced by transgender women of color, who face incredibly high rates of homelessness, discrimination, and violence. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2018’s hate crimes data found that there has been a 34% increase in hate-based attacks on transgender persons between 2017 and 2018.
Prior to her drag performance, Ms. St. James volunteered her time with a cultural presentation as a featured speaker; additionally, she took the precaution of getting her performance approved by conference organizers and providing numerous announcements about her performance to conference attendees.
“Drag is an art of resistance and survival for the queer and trans community,” explained United Territories of Pacific Islander Alliance (U.T.O.P.I.A.) in the organization’s open letter to King County Leaders. “It highlights our resilience and celebrates our bodies amidst the hate and violence we face. For so many of us who face employment and housing discrimination, this art is often connected to our livelihood. We use this art to celebrate our bodies that are often seen as immoral by those who continue to police our expressions. This art allows [us] to control our queer and trans narratives and reclaim our power.”
However, media outlets have criticized Ms. St. James’ performance at the conference while publicly “outing” her – sharing her gender identity without confirmation or permission – and putting her at considerable risk. The media, as well as those harassing Ms. St. James online, have intentionally focused on her gender identity and race rather than her achievements and her powerful story of overcoming struggles in the face of unyielding oppression. Unfortunately, this is a common tactic rooted in “transmisogynoir,” or the intersections of transphobia, anti-Blackness, and sexism, uniquely faced by Black transgender women.
This salacious media coverage further perpetrates the harm and reflects the racist trope that Black bodies are harmful and dangerous to white communities. This year alone more Black and Brown trans women have been murdered than ever reported before, with Out Magazine’s 2019 Obituary Project reporting 22 Trans women of color as victims of murder this year alone.
The Protecting Black Transfemmes Task Force, the Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, UTOPIA, the Lavender Rights Project, the Ingersoll Gender Center, QLaw, and many others who are supporting Ms. St. James are outraged at the continued attack on a member of our community – and, specifically, a Black transgender woman who has committed her life to fighting for the rights of others. We will not sit idly by while our beloved community member is being attacked.
Courtesy of the Lavender Rights Project