Black Trans Joy — As Told By August
Written by August Clayton (he/they), Development Associate for the National Center for Transgender Equality
Experiencing joy, even when fleeting is crucial to me as someone who exists at the center of Blackness and trans-ness. Joy is not making meaning out of the harm that I experience, or seeing my identity solely as a site of violence; rather an opportunity to be vulnerable, raw, and intentional about how I choose to get free. What that means in practice for me, is first, acknowledging that my identity does not start or stop at medical interventions, hormones, and surgeries.
Joy to me, is embodying a failure to “perform” gender. It is trusting myself to know that I have the power to show up as I am, in all of my fullness, all of my softness, and make sure that the people around me can embody that feeling as well.
Over the years, I have sifted through gender, pronouns, names, picking up what makes me feel the most “at-home” in my body and releasing what does not. One of the most pivotal moments in my departure from gender was understanding that the myriad of ways that I choose to affirm myself, my body, and my existence is not violent.
Joy is speaking life, and possibilities into the transformative experience that is being young, Black, and trans. Joy is seeing my Black trans kin, especially Black trans men and masculine folks experience abundance; to have housing, healthcare, access to pleasure, experiences, and a life where survival is not what we dream of.
I do not dream of “hyper-visibility” as a source of my joy, or that of other Black trans masculine folks. I dream of being resourced & supported, of a life without being shuffled along the margins. Joy is making the unwavering commitment to abolish the conditions that maintain social and systemic violence against Black trans people.
For me, this journey to experience joy in its simplest form looks like prioritizing rest, documentation, and building community. It could look like going to the shop to get a fresh retwist and a line up. Joy could look like taking off work because I want to feel the sun on my back. Joy could look like making a perfect playlist. I am firmly of the belief that joy does not require me to center trauma, rather it requires simplicity and ease.
My future has always been, first and foremost, about centering of my health and happiness. What that looks like for me right now is interrogating how I define boundaries, and how I tangibly show up for Black trans folks.
Experiencing joy affirms that I am Black, trans, disabled, and deserving. I reject pedestals, I reject objectification, I reject isolation. I receive community, and warmth, and commitment to a transformative life experience for myself and my Black trans siblings.
I am inspired, always by the work of Black trans community organizers who prioritize our futures, our safety, and our capacity to support one another.
Joy is witnessing the work of Baltimore Safe Haven, Black Trans Futures, Black Trans Media, Black Trans Femmes in the Arts, and Black Trans Travel Fund all invest into the wellness, safety, and security of our community.