January 28, 2014

Broken Systems and Lost Lives: From Islan Nettles to CeCe Mcdonald

On Monday, January 13th CeCe Mcdonald, a Trans Woman of Color who was arrested and charged with manslaughter for defending herself against a racist homophobic attack, was finally released after being incarcerated for the past 19 months in a men’s prison.  (For more information, you can click HERE to read more about her case.

As an organization for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans, and Gender Non-Conforming people of color (LGBTSTGNC POC),  the Audre Lorde Project celebrates CeCe’s release and the resiliency of CeCe and Trans and Gender Non-Conforming organizers in Minnesota and across the country for their tireless efforts and support during her, and many other Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) People’s, unjust incarceration. Yet we know that the case of CeCe McDonald was not an isolated incident. Only 2 months before CeCe’s release on November 19th, 2013 the District Attorney dropped misdemeanor assault charges against Paris Wilson who was accused of brutally beating a 21 year old Trans woman of color named Islan Nettles. This attack resulted in her death a few days later. 
We grieve the loss of Islan, as well as the the 239 other documented lives lost globally to transphobic violence last year alone. We are outraged by the continued violence that trans women of color face daily. We are appalled by the over-policing and imprisonment of our communities: a system which isolates and displaces many of our beloved community members every year.

The Audre Lorde Project, as  a community organization is at the intersection of many kinds of violence and we see and experience all the ways violence affects our communities.  We feel the ways transphobic violence often goes unnoticed and under-reported. We experience the way prisons disproportionately displace people of color and often are the sites where people of color experience more violence. Yet we know that prisons do not rehabilitate people, they do not make people less homophobic or transphobic, and they were never built to end systemic transphobia, homophobia, sexism, classism, racism, ableism, or xenophobia. They were in fact built to uphold these systems of oppression that fuel the violence we experience.

We are a community invested in finding solutions to violence that work to transform violence as well as the people affected by violence. We don’t want to see a justice controlled by the state that simply locks away people who have done harm, but a justice that includes healing, accountability, and transformation for every person affected by the harm.  

This is a moment of crisis and we must urgently address the violence trans and gender non-conforming people of color are facing. We are in solidarity with all prisoners, especially the many TGNC people behind prison walls.  We call attention to the under-reported accounts of violence and rape that our community faces at the hands of correction officers and other prisoners, in psychiatric facilities, and group homes.  We demand an end to the torture and discrimination TGNC POC prisoners face.  We demand that all TGNC POC prisoners receive competent and respectful healthcare.  We oppose the continued growth of the prison industrial complex that continues to target our communities.  We recognize that TGNC POC people need access to services and facilities that lessen our vulnerability to violence within the present jails and prisons.  We call attention to the criminal injustice system that increasingly puts POC, immigrants, people with disabilities, TGNC POC and poor people behind bars - criminalizing our communities and our lives.

We must continue to create visibility for violence against our communities, by taking collective responsibility in educating about transphobia and racism, continuing to organize against the violence targeting the TGNC POC community, and creating safety for all our communities that is defined by us, not for us by a criminal system.

We fight in solidarity with those who have fought against the prison system, and against the criminalizing of TGNC POC. We believe in building a justice that values all of our lives.