To the trans communities of Southeastern Michigan,
My name is Jack. I am a white trans man who transitioned 7 years ago while living in Northwestern Ohio. I have been involved with community organizing and direct support services for LGBT+ communities since 2011. Currently, I am a medical case manager at UNIFIED – HIV Health and Beyond in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
I feel it is important to write a letter addressed to trans communities during the COVID-19 global pandemic. I know firsthand how isolating being trans can make one feel, both as individuals and within one’s own communities. Now, with social distancing and quarantine mandates, these feelings of isolation are ever-present. For many of us these are scary and uncertain times.
Throughout history, trans people have struggled to live as our authentic selves. Trans communities continue to exist under persecution from powerful institutions that enforce transphobia and transmisogyny. The stress of these oppressions is further exacerbated for Black trans women, as well as other trans people of color. Prisons, medical and social gate-keeping, and policing are just a few examples of these powerful institutions working to keep all of us from truly being free.
At the same time, trans people have been resilient in our battles against oppression. For as long as there have been powers attempting to strip away our dignity and strength, there have also been trans people fighting back. Trans woman scholar and historian, Susan Stryker, says it well: “when people struggling against an injustice have no hope that anything will ever change, they use their strength to survive; when they think that their actions matter, that same strength becomes a force for positive change.” During this time of regional, national, and global unrest, we must remember these words to be true. Our strength has always been within ourselves and each other. The strength trans people hold can and will carry us through to the “other side” of COVID-19.
Many trans people are aware of the disproportionately high rates of suicide, HIV, and violence that our communities face. I know I am not just speaking for myself when I say that these numbers terrify me. Whether I am concerned for my own safety or someone else’s, I try my best to coax my feelings of fear and concern into care for myself and others. My hope for trans communities enduring the stress induced by COVID-19 is that we take care of ourselves and we take care of each other. Somewhat surprisingly, these are the same hopes I had in the pre-COVID-19 world. Often times trans people are not afforded the care and community we deserve solely based on cisgender people’s assumptions and biases of transness. Therefore, it is crucial that we offer care to each other. We should care about our communities at all times and especially now when physical gatherings is not an option.
I feel the current moment will affect each of us in different ways. It may also prompt some tough questions about how we move forward in a world where social distancing and quarantining are temporary new normals.
How do I take care of myself during times of enormous stress?
What are actions I can take to keep myself and people I come in contact with safe?
Do I have the capacity and resources to help people struggling in my communities?
Though these questions may be difficult to ask, let alone answer it serves us to do our best, whatever our best may look like at this moment. I want you to know that we are in this struggle together. Now more than ever is the time to stay connected to our communities.
Please keep yourself safe!
Jack A. (he/him/his)