NO MORE DEATH POEMS: A Dispatch from Saint Louis

Guest post by Joss Barton

Photo by Joss BartonI am thinking a lot lately about motherhood in terms of trans women and how we enact motherhood to our sisters our siblings and our trans expansive communities, how our relationships to each other as trans women are at constant odds with violent systems of state and cultural oppression and how we internalize these acts of violence and further isolate ourselves from each other.

WE ARE IN A CRISIS & EPIDEMIC OF VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK AND BROWN TRANS WOMEN.

Seven black trans women have been murdered in 2019 in this nation: Michelle Washington in Philadelphia, Dana Martin in Montgomery, Jazzaline Ware in Memphis, Claire Legato in Cleveland, Ashanti Carmon in Maryland, and Muhlaysia Booker in Dallas. Muhlaysia’s murder last weekend was even more horrific and traumatizing and heartbreaking considering how she had survived being beaten in broad-daylight by a mob a month prior, a brutal attack that was filmed and broadcast across the world, and even with the world watching she was still taken from us, and on Saturday, in Detroit, a black trans woman was shot and killed outside a gas station, her name as of yet still un-released or identified.

How does the loss of their motherhood affect their communities and loved ones? How even in death we are faced with further denial of our role as mothers by state sanctioned misgendering: or absentee paternal families burying us as men after they have abandoned us for years. Right now, trans folks are being used as political bait by the nightmare regime in their ascent toward fascism. This is nothing new. American democracy has a long history of demonizing and weaponizing marginalized people. It is the erasure of the word transgender at the CDC it is religious freedom bills it is ICE imprisoning trans asylum seekers it is HUD gutting protections for homeless trans folks at federally funded shelters and it is the complicity and neglect of the cisgender gay lesbian bisexual and queer communities who have failed to fiercely protect and nourish us.

I am thinking of lots of HOLY MOTHERS for trans women both living and passed and how we carry on the traditions of our ancestors ( a fierce read/ a razor sharp lipsynch/ a cackle/ a beat for the gods/ a poem/ a hand to hold/ a place to call home) : I AM THINKING OF ALL THE LIVING TRANS WOMEN I LOVE AND FIGHT FOR: I AM THINKING OF THE DAY WHEN I CAN FINALLY STOP WRITING DEATH POEMS. WE DON’T NEED HASHTAGS: WE NEED FUNDING & JOBS: WE DON’T NEED YOU TO PUT A TRANS FLAG AVATAR ON YOUR PROFILE: WE NEED TRAININGS WE NEED HEALTHCARE WE NEED HOUSING: WE DON’T NEED A RAINBOW BILLBOARD WE NEED SECOND/THIRD/FOURTH/FIFTH CHANCES : WE NEED YOU TO NOT ONLY RESPECT BLACK AND BROWN TRANS WOMEN BUT WE NEED YOU TO LOVE US, TO HOLD US, TO BELIEVE US, AND TO TRUST & FOLLOW US.

Right now the hashtag calls for unified action are grounded in restoring reproductive justice (as it should) for all people , but i want to say that these attacks on our sovereignty as human beings deserving of dignity doesn’t stop at planned parenthood or the border or at the rapidly melting arctic poles, they can not be solved until we acknowledge the roots connecting all of these forms of violence:

Stating that these wretched systems are intrinsically connected and saying our approach must be intersectional liberation is well and good, but to live it, to put it into action, to BELIEVE IT is fucking HARD and is getting harder every moment this collective mess (gorgeous and terrifying) of humanity continues to advance toward the inevitable.

Motherhood can be distilled as the brutal determination to ensure the survival of the next generation. But perhaps we must challenge the very definition of that survival: Are we truly surviving when we are grappling with generations of trauma? Are we surviving under capitalism? Are we surviving under incarceration and cryptic surveillance? Are we surviving when black trans women and latinx trans women are being slaughtered in the streets and in ICE detention centers? Are we surviving in a world that is ableist and racist and nationalist ? I think not.

The moment we are born we begin to die. This fact has yet to be altered by any advancement in science or technology. To reflect on trans motherhood then I want to reflect on what it means to truly live and thrive in these times, surrounded by these horrors, and how we build a new framework of liberation in our communities and lives, and if we must eventually die, how can we bring about death to the wretched systems of the world and birth a better one, something we can all see ourselves in, flawed but free.

 

Joss Barton - contributor

Joss Barton is a writer, photographer, journalist, and artist documenting queer and trans* life and love in St. Louis. She was most recently a 2016 fellow at Topside Press’ Writers Workshop for Trans Women Writers and a 2013 Fiction Fellow at the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging LGBT Writers Retreat. She was an exhibition artist for Nine Network’s 2015 Public Media Commons Artist Showcase and is also an alumni of the Regional Arts Commission’s Community Arts Training Institute. Her work has been published by Ethica Press, Vice Magazine, HIV Here & Now, Locsuts: A Post-Queer Nation Zine, and Vetch Poetry: A Transgender Poetry Journal.