On Sunday, June 24, 2018, during the Corporate Pride weekend, Cathalina Christina James, a 24-year-old transgender womxn, was murdered in Jacksonville, Florida. There has been no outrage from Corporate Pride. Cathalina was dead-named in her local newspaper and was expected to be forgotten. We will not forget. Her life mattered — now #SayHerName.
My name is Aidan Hill (they/them). and I am an Afro-Latinx nonbinary womxn running to represent the UC Berkeley community in Berkeley City Council (District 7). Last year, California passed landmark legislation (SB 179) recognizing nonbinary people with the gender marker “X” on legal documentation. This Nov. 6 election, UC Berkeley celebrates 150 years of light with the chance to elect the first legally nonbinary candidate to public office in U.S. hxstory. As a second-generation American raised in Southern California, I saw corporations steal our youth’s creative potential and confine them into warehouse jobs. My gender was exploited constantly: My father would listen to make sure I didn’t pee “like a girl,” and in high school, I was outed as “gay,” which led to multiple attempts on my life. Unable to access PrEP (which prevents HIV from replicating after exposure) because of its “controversial nature,” I was diagnosed as HIV-positive at 20 years old, almost living with AIDS. Only three people knew my status because of the stigma associated with being Black, disabled and trans, and I suffered in silence trying to live.
I was accepted into UC Berkeley as a first-generation transfer student and chose the Bay Area for sanctuary as a Black QTIAPK+ — queer, trans, intersex, asexual, polyamorous, kink — person of color. Instead of rainbows, I received tuition hikes, unaffordable housing and the threat of losing health coverage, which keeps me undetectable and alive. The university didn’t save me. I became homeless, and UC Berkeley charged me with a $17,000 debt for a period I couldn’t even complete. Locked out of resources, sexually assaulted by an employee of the college, suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder and facing the off-campus housing requirement of “females only,” I was denied continuing my studies. Despite me trying my best to live and change this world, UC Berkeley demonstrated that my Black trans life didn’t matter.
This treatment is the reality for most Black/indigenous people of color, or BIPOC, and sexual/gender minorities. We are treated as untouchables — forced into alleys, bathhouses and closets just to feel safe or alive. Even cis women, our “cis-ters,” embolden the patriarchy by erasing QTIAPK+ voices and narratives by sex workers from our hxstory, reducing their own womanhood to an object of the male gaze. Despite third genders existing in Peru, Uganda, Italy, India and across indigenous societies around the world, we are continuously murdered, assaulted and erased every single day.
Cathalina Christina James became Jacksonville, Florida’s third Black trans womxn murdered in 2018. Corporate Pride — companies sponsoring Pride that historically harm people of color and low-income constituents — chose to continue its march, shaking hands with police officers instead of occupying the streets. Pride used to be a protest — against an armed force that continues to abuse us and disrupt the only safe places our communities have. Have we forgotten that Shiloh Heavenly Quine, a trans womxn imprisoned in the same city that elected Harvey Milk, was placed in men’s prisons for 36 years, even after disclosing her womanhood in 2009? According to Mercury News, Shiloh continues to be “housed alone in a cell,” suffering with “no privacy … pushing her toward anxiety, depression” and attempted suicide. PRIDE+ is a rebellion against a society that fully intends to let us die when we only want to live. PRIDE+ does not shake hands with cops who place gender minorities in men’s jails. PRIDE+ rises with our water defenders instead. Our month of outrage has been infiltrated by predatory forces trying to convince us that marriage was enough. Marriage was never enough — but still, I’m proud.
For all of the sexual, romantic and gender minorities who have lost their lives to senseless male violence, it is our responsibility to act up and fight back against the cis-patriarchal forces that kill our brothers, sisters and siblings indiscriminately. A system designed to assign people to a warehouse or a kitchen depending on their genitals will not liberate anyone. Queer, trans and intersex people belong to a lineage of brick throwers who refused to lay down and instead chose to Act Up. By existing, we demand to be treated with respect, autonomy and dignity as human rights. We have the right to exist exactly as we are regardless of what is in our pants. Have PRIDE+ for breaking the binary that exploits the many — for the few. We are not put on this earth for anyone’s consumption, entertainment or impregnation. We are here to learn how to love ourselves.
Like all leaders in the BIPOC and LGBTQIAPK+ communities, I will be beaten and antagonized for refusing to be oppressed. I will fight, proud of being boldly queer and unapologetically Black. I burned my closet to the ground years ago, proud to have survived a system that sees me as stolen property — a culture that oppresses my free speech by diminishing the violence happening to all my siblings every single day. Gender is how we feel, not what’s in our pants. I am proud to run for public office and represent those whose existence on this earth is a revolutionary act — and we will change this world.
When you are asked whether you are a “man” or a “woman,” tell them:
We are people — and we demand to be heard.