A little over a year ago, I wrote an open letter about an organization I co-founded called Trans United Fund. Today, six weeks out from a historic election, I’m writing with a crucial update and a call to action. For context, I am an unapologetic, black transgender woman who is a parent, a grandparent, a sister, aunt and friend; I am a public servant, a leader in Black Lives Matter, a poet, and an artist. I have spent my entire life in the movement. Through it all, I have been guided by Audre Lorde’s enduring wisdom that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” In her words, I have heard not only a warning about the limitations of uncritically borrowing the strategies and tactics of those who oppress our communities, but also a call to action that to create the type of world we are fighting for requires us to develop new and different tools for ourselves. Her words were on my heart when I came together a little over a year ago with a multi-racial, multi-class group of trans and gender nonbinary people to create Trans United Fund.
Today, I’m not just writing you as a co-founder of an organization, but as a candidate for Minneapolis City Council. Trans United Fund has been decisive in positioning me to run a historic campaign in Minneapolis, MN and to successfully get elected to the City Council in Ward 8. I’m one of four candidates supported by Trans United Fund this Fall. This slate includes: young, black trans man Phillippe Cunningham, who is running to take a seat next to mine on the MN City Council; candidates like Kristen Browde in New York, and Danica Roem in Virginia. And Trans United Fund’s candidates - while trans - are so much more than that: they are transformative. They bring with them a commitment to govern in a manner that not only reflects our values, but that will drive historical and innovative policy solutions. Trans United Fund has been engaged from the beginning, providing crucial early support that means we have strong chances to win.
I want to offer some more background for what we are building and why we are building it; why it matters not just to trans people, nonbinary people, our allies and our loved ones - not just poor and working class people, youth, immigrants, women, people of color - but to everyone who has a stake in a world where all of us can be our full and authentic selves.
Trans United Fund is premised on the idea that to create the sort of world we need to build, it requires us to come together - not despite but rather across difference - and to build a vision and act decisively to make that vision a reality. Exactly six weeks from today, we have the opportunity to make history and to increase the number of transformative trans candidates elected to public office around the country. But we cannot win without you. Whether you can donate, volunteer, or simply share your wisdom, I hope you will be a part of this movement today.
Our trans movement has made huge strides in the last few years, shown by the simple fact that more policies to include and protect trans people have been introduced in the last 20 years than in the 200 years before. But backroom policy deals have never been enough; a strategy of savvy, but quiet advocacy will never be enough to overcome the loud and unapologetic force of violence and hate that we face. As a historian, I know that real change can never be achieved without the work to move not just lawmakers, but the public. Transformation will never be achieved if we continue to force people to choose a politics that demands they prioritize just one part of their identity and disavow the rest.
The violence and oppression we face is intersectional and so our strategies to address those forces must also be intersectional. These lessons are the legacy of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice; the lessons of the 22 trans people murdered this year; the lessons that women, people of color, immigrants, young people and others carry with them every day. We must change laws and policy but to change the world, we must do even more: we must change the calculus of power.
We launched Trans United Fund to work towards a vision that reflected our full selves; that insisted on not just surviving but thriving; and that anchored a strategy to achieve that vision- not around the whims and fate of people with power, but instead around a strategy where we become a people with power. Now is the moment for Trans United Fund.
In a moment that is characterized by juries who still acquit police who kill young black people even when the cameras are turned on; by rallies of white supremacists where the chants of “blood and soil” echo in our ears; as we read the obituaries of the young woman murdered for peacefully protesting and the trans people killed for living their truth; a time like this calls for boldness, for daring, for a new sort of politics. We knew that to dismantle the master’s house we need to build something new, and so we created not a house, but a home, a political home called Trans United Fund with enough space to hold our differences, our wisdom, our brilliance and even our disagreements.
We have brought together some of the most experienced political operatives in history, the most cutting edge tools and research-informed strategies and tactics, and combined it with the wisdom of diverse trans and nonbinary communities carried out with the values of a movement. In less than a year, in collaboration with a local group of courageous parents and community members, Trans United Fund carried out the first ever trans-focused independent expenditure to fight a hate slate of school board candidates in Palatine, IL associated with a multi-million dollar hate organization intent on rolling back protections for trans youth. We beat all 3 out of 3 of their candidates in an election that sent shock waves through the far right and created a playbook to help other communities facing similar challenges.
But an effective defense is insufficient, and that’s why Trans United Fund is supporting a group of transformative candidates across the U.S. and we stand poised, in addition to our many other non-electoral programs and initiatives, to increase the number of trans elected officials across the U.S. by 50 percent.
We cannot dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools, but we can together build a political home for developing a shared vision, a shared strategy and the power we need to make that vision real. But we can do none of it without you.
Whether you can give your time, your money, your expertise or wisdom - please join us today, and let’s get to work.