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Advocates Uniting for Action

Transgender Ally Collective shows how local proponents can better support the trans community.

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Transgender Ally Collective, a new local advocacy organization, kicked off its launch by raising a billboard that reads ‘Protect Black Trans Women” in Fifth Ward. The group was founded by LGBTQ Houston leaders Ian L Haddock (l), Verniss McFarland III, Mia Porter, and Justyn Smith (not pictured).

On December 29, 2018, local transgender activist Mia Porter was brutally attacked after leaving a restaurant in downtown Houston.

During the assault, Porter’s friend, who she was on the phone with at the time, dialed 911 on her behalf, as did a couple driving by. The aggressor, whom Porter says she knew, fled before officers arrived.

According to Porter, the couple told the police, had they not stopped to help her, the attacker would have killed her. “I had to fight for my life,” Porter recalls.

Although she provided the Houston Police Department a sworn statement, the man she said assaulted her was neither charged nor convicted. The Harris County District Attorney’s office concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence.

Based on the latest survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, trans people are at a much greater risk of verbal harassment, physical abuse, and discrimination because of their gender identity. For trans women of color, and especially for Black trans women, the stakes are even higher.

A few months after Porter was assaulted, Tracy Single, Porter’s friend and another Black woman of the trans experience, was murdered by her boyfriend.

At least 26 trans or gender-nonconforming people have been shot or killed this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). And just as in previous years, HRC’s data determined that many of these victims have been Black trans women. These statistics, along with the memory of Porter’s unresolved police report and Single’s death, have pushed several Houston activists to become better advocates for the trans community.

Porter decided to further her trans advocacy work in December 2019 by creating Sister to Sister Support Group, a social organization that offers Black trans women a safe space to meet and share resources.

In March 2016, Ian L. Haddock, a Black gay man and one of Porter’s childhood friends, created The Normal Anamoly, an organization that supports the Black and/or LGBTQ community through storytelling, outreach, and programming. He recently partnered with Porter, Verniss McFarland III of The Mahogany Project, and Justyn Smith of Impulse Group Houston, to create the Transgender Ally Collective (TAC), an organization dedicated to serving the trans community with a focus on Black trans people.

TAC kicked off its launch on August 9 with a public-awareness campaign that featured a billboard on Interstate 10 east of downtown that read “Protect Black Trans Women.” The collective also uploaded three online public-service announcements to uplift Black trans women and highlight their experiences. The PSAs, which can be viewed on the Facebook pages of The Mahogany Project and The Normal Anomaly, feature stories that show how the LGBTQ community and its allies can support Black trans women. 

McFarland, a Black activist of the trans experience, says the project is essential because it answers the question “What can be done?” According to McFarland, TAC teaches LGBTQ groups and their allies how they can become better supporters of the trans liberation movement.

“We need other LGBTQ people and allies, other Black people, and other people of color to be a part of this movement so we can have trans liberation for everyone,” McFarland adds.

Transgender Ally Collective’s August 9 launch and billboard unveiling featured words from members of Houston’s Black trans community and its allies.

TAC will host several trans-led Zoom webinars starting this month to show community allies what they can do to protect the trans community. The first training session occurs on September 18 at 7 p.m. and will be led by McFarland and Atlantis Narcisse, the founder of Save Our Sisters United, INC, a support group for trans women of color. Interested individuals can register for the event through Zoom at tinyurl.com/y2kpfz6q.

The organization will also hold a virtual town hall meeting with local politicians and healthcare leaders in September to discuss how they can help protect the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of trans people. More details on the upcoming event will be posted on TAC’s website.

In the meantime, TAC will continue to work with trans activists of all ages to determine what the group’s next steps are, gather funds for Black trans-led organizations like The Mahogany Project, and assist these groups with grant writing.

“The collective is a way of prioritizing Black trans women by placing them at the forefront of an actionable movement, instead of waiting for [murdered] Black trans women to become hashtags,” Haddock says.

Porter agrees, and hopes TAC will reduce the level of violence and discrimination directed at trans people.

“Like other organizations, TAC is working to ensure trans people have an equitable source of healthcare, education, housing, and gainful employment,” she says. “TAC is trying a different approach to create awareness and change. In the end, we’re all working for the same cause—to empower the movement and sustain trans lives.”

Join TAC’s mailing list and get updates on the program’s future efforts by visiting transallycollective.org.

This article appears in the September 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Lillian Hoang

Lillian Hoang is a staff reporter for OutSmart Magazine. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism and minor in Asian American studies. She works as a College of Education communication assistant and hopes to become an editor-in-chief.

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