From the Ground to the Sky Listening Tour: Southern Edition

“As a local organizer and activist in your area what do you vision, hope or dream for trans/two-spirit/queer/gender non- conforming people in your area?”

“Can you tell us how your group got started or how you first got involved in trans justice organizing?”

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These a just a few of the questions we asked several grantees, applicants, TGNC activists, organizers, and community members on our From the Ground to the Sky Listening Tour: Southern edition

Having previously traveled to places like Montana, South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, this time we headed to the South Eastern region to expand our knowledge around what local trans justice looks and feels like in the Deep South.  

TJFP spent two weeks moving between Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana, driving along tree lined highways, in between mountain hallows, witnessing cotton fields, and bright city lights. Several times over, we saw common themes making themselves apparent from community to community.  Yet, nothing stood out as much as the importance and need to create safety and shift the conditions at home, as well as the sense of duty of bringing knowledge back to their people.

For many, the option of leaving home for more liberal areas with more trans affirming infrastructure is not always an option or even a desire. One local activist passionately stated, “Why can’t I be safe in Arkansas?”  Her desire to staying where things are familiar and where her family lives, is the driving force to not leave and to continue to work towards finding and creating community for her and other black trans woman like her.

Another thing that we heard over and over again, was the need for space to meet in to get work done, resources for traveling to meet other trans and gender non-conforming organizers so they won’t have to ‘reinvent the wheel,’ and could feel more connect to a broader network of TGNC peers. Even with things like internet access or tools like Skype and conference calls, for those who are able to travel, being face to face still remains a powerful method for breaking down isolation and unifying our leaders.

Like most places, the South has a complex and painful past.  And yet, it’s beauty and the activists we met along the way, have a deep love for their communities, their home, and their histories. Every person we spoke with reaffirmed that we should all have the right to stay at home if we wish to and have the ability to be safe as well as have our most basic needs to deepest desires met. 

From the historic Selma, Alabama to the colorful lights of New Orleans, Louisiana–which still bares the scares of the storm–we thank each and every person who took the time to allow us to record your trans justice organizing history. We hope your experiences, words, and efforts will be taken to heart and supported.

From state to state we come to understand more and more, we exist because you exist.

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