Today we bless Tela La’Raine Love as she prepares for her gender reassignment surgery. Every day, Tela blesses this world with her courage, her determination, and her clear vision of a world where transwomen of color live safe, fulfilling, and long lives. Only in her 30’s, Tela serves as an elder, a mother, and a mentor to many young transwomen of color, struggling to survive in a culture that tells them to disappear or die.
Although we hope that “it gets better,” 2012 saw the 4th highest murder rate of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people (LGBTQH) in recorded history, according to the Hate Violence Report released annually by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP-http://www.avp.org/about-avp/coalitions-a-collaborations/82-national-coalition-of-anti-violence-programs ).
People of color, transgender people, and gender non-conforming people continue to experience disproportionately higher rates of homicide. Black and African-American people “were particularly overrepresented in the homicide rates: over half of reported hate murders had Black or African-American victims, even though Black and African American people made up only 15% of total survivors and victims of hate crimes overall.” In 2012, LGBTQH people of color represented 53% of total reported survivors and victims of all hate crimes, but 73.1% of homicide victims. Living at the intersections of racial, gender, economic, and sexual oppression, trans-women of color are told to disappear or die.
In the midst of a dominant cultural narrative of oppression and repression, Tela Love is living into her journey towards wholeness with a spirit fully grounded in her inherent worth and dignity. She is the co-founder of New Legacy Ministries (http://www.newlegacystartstoday.com/), a grassroots organization striving to raise the voices of marginalized communities, especially transgender women of color, and create a spiritually welcoming and sustaining community.
Disappear or Die: A Southern Black Trans-Experience, will be a documentary of her experience as a openly HIV Positive trans-women of color in the south undergoing gender reassignment surgery June 18,2014. In sharing this personal window into her life, she understands that she is taking a risk. Traditionally trans-women have disappeared into the constructs of a patriarchal society after their surgery, rather than remain targets for hate and fear.
Tela realizes that she is allowing herself to be a target for greater judgment and persecution than that of which she already endures. However, inspired by the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail that “silence is betrayal,” she has determined that she can be silent no more. She cannot be silent when waking from her nightmares of another young transgender woman being murdered or dying because she’s too ashamed to follow through with her HIV treatment after being diagnosed out of fear of being further alienated. Tela cannot be silent while there are little or no job opportunities for trans-women, while there are little or no housing opportunities (unless HIV infected), while black trans-women walk the streets in order to survive.
And neither, beloveds, can we. Our silence, too, is betrayal. Let us speak into the space of fear and hatred, ignorance and oppression. Let us bless Tela and every one of her sisters with the welcoming arms of beloved community. (https://www.facebook.com/Blacktranswomenarepowerful)
Please support the creation, production, and distribution of the documentary Disappear or Die: A Southern Black Trans-Experience. Together, let’s re-write the narrative of oppression into thriving, joyful beloved community.
Donations to support the creation of this documentary can be made via PayPal or sent to the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal marked “Designated Donation: New Legacy Ministries” 2903 Jefferson Ave, 2nd FL, New Orleans, LA 70115.)