Black History Month: Combatting Transmisogynoir
Transgender (trans) people have existed for centuries but their existence has only become more prominent in mainstream media in recent years. Even though this is a positive shift in an inclusive direction, there is still a large gap in representation for Black trans folks. Yes, TV shows such as POSE, Legendary and We're Here exist, but they are a rare exception.
The onset of the pandemic brought with it heightened discussions and protests of anti-Black racism in North America. News stations, movies, television shows and copious amounts of literature were (and continue to be) published; addressing the need to dismantle oppression at a systematic and individual level. With these discussions, more critical conversations around race intersections with trans experiences have arisen. Transmisogynoir is a call to the unique experience of persecution that affects Black trans people.
What is Transmisogynoir?
To get a better understanding of the term, we'll break it down and start with misogynoir. Created by scholar Moya Bailey in 2008, the term spread online in 2010. Misogynoir is the intersection of anti-Black racism and misogyny specific to the experience of Black women. It combines the words misogyny with the French word noir (pronounced nuh-waar) which means black. This occurs often in everyday interactions such as the perception that Black girls (and their names) are "ghetto", to systemic issues such as the health disparities between Black women and their white counterparts.
Author Trudy added trans to misogynoir in 2014 on their now retired blog post, Gradient Lair. It defines the heightened societal prejudice and hate projected toward Black trans women. This experience involves great rates of violence and discrimination. Black trans people have represented over 50% of victims in incidents of transphobic violence since 2013. Between 2021 to 2022, 65% of trans individuals murdered worldwide were Black, brown, or a part of another racialized group.
Erasure is another element of transmisogynoir. The term itself is often overlooked or forgotten. This leads to the erasure of the unique experience of oppression affecting Black trans people. During this Black History Month, we want to highlight Black trans authors. To combat erasure, we're sharing titles that center the Black trans experience.
Trans Experience and Writing
Trans fiction authors often write about imagined worlds and science fiction settings. This is a method used as a way to process and reveal the injustices they've experienced. It is also used to imagine a better world and inspire change. Trans and queer history is often disjointed and difficult to follow due to erasure. We prioritized memoirs, biographies and photography books in our non-fiction choices. These works all capture important figures and historic moments. We felt it was important to acknowledge their powerful offerings to literature and combat transmisogynoir. It also serves as a reminder for others outside the Black community that there is diversity in the oppression faced by people worldwide. We hope this list may inspire you to believe in a reimagined and better world for Black trans people to live and thrive in.
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Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution and Felix Ever After by Kacen Callendar
Lark & Kasim Start a Revolution follows two Black queer teenagers navigating relationships and social media. Lark is non-binary and neurodivergent, Kasim is trans, and there are many other queer characters. Kacen's previous bestselling young adult novel, Felix Ever After is another great read. Felix wants to find love, but he's afraid that his Black, queer and transgender identity is one marginalization too many for a happy ending.
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
The Good Luck Girls is a feminist western set in an inhospitable land. The "Good Luck Girls" are sold to a 'Welcome House' and forced to work as courtesans. After an accidental death, several girls escape. This wild, energetic romp celebrates sisterhood while tackling complex ethics. The author wanted to tell a story about a young girl finding her freedom instead of one that focused on racism.
Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
Nigerian born Akwaeke Emezi is a best-selling author who is trans, non-binary and ogbanje. In Emezi's Igbo culture, an Ogbanje is a spirit born into a human and can be considered a third gender. Freshwater, Akwaeke's first book, tells the story of Ada, an Igbo girl with multiple Ogbanje living inside her. Their novel The Death of Vivek Oji is about gender identity, belonging and the damaging effects of cultural expectations and pressure.
The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons
Fifteen-year-old Spencer Harris was bullied and ostracized at his old school after transitioning. A new school is a new opportunity for Spencer, who launches into a journey of self-discovery while making new friends. Fitzsimons deftly discusses coming out, staying safe in a washroom and the politics of passing.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi creates a unique young adult series with Pet. The novel discusses the choices you can make when society lives in a state of denial. Jam, the main character, is a selectively nonverbal Black trans girl. Emezi includes many different representations of families and identities in this series. The adventure continues in the sequel, Bitter.
An Unkindness of Ghosts and The Deep by Rivers Solomon
Aster lives in the HSS Matilda, a spaceship divided into a caste system. Aster fights for queer acceptance and freedom within a racist society. Rivers Solomon includes a wealth of gender non-conforming characters in An Unkindness of Ghosts. Their 2019 novel The Deep is set in an underwater society occupied by the wajinru. They are the descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard from slave ships.
The Terrible We: Thinking with Trans Maladjustment by Cameron Awkward-Rich
Awkward-Rich observes the early abandonment of psychosis, illness and disability in trans studies. Instead of separating the concepts, they argue that "thinking with maladjustment" is beneficial to trans life. Forms of maladjustment are central to the development of trans thought and creativity.
Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi arrives yet again on our list, this time with a memoir. Like Freshwater, this story is told by an embodied ogbanje spirit. Emezi uses their correspondence with friends, lovers and family to tell their story. They show the turmoil of relationships, their path as a writer and transformative decisions about their gender and body.
Revolution is Love: A Year of Black Trans Liberation by Qween Jean and Joela Rivera
In 2020, a Black trans man in Florida and a Black trans woman in Missouri were murdered just weeks apart. Qween and Joela knew they had to center Black trans and queer lives in the Black Lives Matter movement. Returning to the historic Stonewall Inn, they initiated weekly actions that came to be known as the Stonewall Protests. This is the story of a year of protest that brought thousands of people together.
Miss Major Speaks: The Life and Legacy of a Black Trans Revolutionary by Toshio Meronek
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a Black transgender woman famous for her activism and advocacy. Miss Major is a former sex worker, incarcerated person and veteran of the Stonewall Riots. Miss Major warns the younger generation of Black, brown, queer and trans activists about the pitfalls and barriers she faced. This book overflows with Miss Major's resilience, optimism and humour.
Dispatch: Poems by Cameron Awkward-Rich
Dispatch is an attempt by Cameron to understand and come to terms with American violence. Cameron looks at our identities and how they are altered by circumstances and experiences. His poems talk about navigating life and family as a Black trans man.
The Black Trans Prayer Book Edited by J Mase III and Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi
J Mase III and Dane have put together an interfaith collection of poems, incantations, spells, and visual art. Created by Black trans, non-binary and intersex people, The Black Trans Prayer Book is a celebration of Black identities. The passages beautifully create space for self-care, affirmation and healing.
Don't Call Us Dead and Homie by Danez Smith
Don't Call Us Dead is a collection of poems grappling with Black, queer and trans experiences. These poems are for Black boys oppressed by police, for queer youth and for anyone feeling vulnerable. Danez's most recent collection, Homie, is an anthem about friendship and family.
Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection
The Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage collection is recognized as one of the most significant collections of its kind in Canada with its focus on Black and Caribbean culture and history. The collection features over 18,000 books, CDs, movies, newspapers and magazines for all ages. We recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and invite you to explore its rich offerings.
You can also check out our Pride Celebration page to see our 2SLGBTQ+ in-person and online program offerings, booklists, blog posts, resources and more.