We Need A Movement For Trans Resilience

by Dr . Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

This week marks Trans Awareness Week, which culminates with Trans Day of Remembrance. TDOR (Trans Day of Remembrance) is that moment that many of us dread, because it is the ritual where we mindfully mark the passing of our Trans siblings, many of whom are Trans Women of Color who are victims of relentless violence and the hatred of difference.

I am presently en route to San Antonio, TX for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, and there I will join the local TDOR event when I arrive. San Antonio is my hometown, and it feels important to join together with a community that nurtured me as a young adult and be a witness to the lives that have been stolen from us. As a nonbinary Trans Latinx, it is important for me to join the chorus of Trans identified folks living in these times to help build capacity for tangible outcomes of change.

Gender violence has been occurring for decades. 

The outright violence against members of our growing trans community is not only a moment for us to pause and remember those who have been murdered and stolen from our care, but also a moment for us to lean in to the imaginative possibility for Transgender Resilience.

What we need is a movement that not only holds awareness for Trans folks in general, but a movement for Trans resilience, so that we can move from survivability to radical flourishing.

Trans resilience can be characterized by the active energy to build capacity with one another, allies and Trans folks alike. It is the intentional effort to bring together the wealth of tools and resources we have brought into this movement (and those that have been developed along the way) and dedicate our time and effort to building a movement for Trans resilience.

Resilience refers means enfleshing a particular strength in the face of difficulty and elasticity or nimbleness in the face of challenge. In a time when there is an emboldened effort and increased violence against members of the Trans community, we, ourselves, need tools that move us from awareness beyond survivability, and I think that tool is the tool of resilience. While one of those tools is robust efforts for community building, we need to pay careful attention to the ways in which we are building our communities.

Are we building our communities on the basis of grief and lament that forecloses an awareness of our potential to become the community we long to be, or are we naming our lament and grief and using tools to recover from this lament and grief leaning into the radical possibility of being and becoming a community rooted in radical social change? The latter would be a tool of resilience.

There are many examples of resilience in our movement.

I think about women of color, in particular Chicanas who used radical forms of art to tell their stories and build capacity with other women of color, though we know from our herstories, this is not without complications.

I think about the poetry and manifesto that Gloria Anzaldúa wrote that had an explicit call for the people to listen to their jotería (queers). I think how Stonewall is a major touchstone for us to remember that it was community that survived the brutality of violence, and today it is our own TDOR that we can use as a tool to build a framework of resistance to violence but also grounded in an awareness of resilience.

We need a movement for resilience because if we are to survive the logic of dominance that threatens our very becoming-being, then we need to be well-equipped for a world that does not value us and a world that actively works to eradicate systems that help us be our best selves and mechanisms that encourage our deepest flourishing.

In a world where religious leaders can demonize us and cause doubt that we are wonderfully made, we need a movement of Trans resilience. 

In a world where each day we need to breathe in compassion and hope for Trans youth to survive another day living in a system that does not create mechanisms of protection but allows for the politics and social practices of bullying, we need a movement of Trans resilience.

We need this movement, because our lives depend on the ability to breathe in compassion for ourselves and create the conditions of possibility for us to respond to the impossible act of loving ourselves and each other with the depth of intention for which we long to enflesh.

Photo via flickr user Natasha Bishop