By Jamilyn Armstrong
Jamilyn Armstrong is a 28-year-old Transgendered woman in Boston, Massachusetts. She has worked extensively in the Trans community in Boston for over ten years. She is deeply committed to Social Justice and Mentoring.
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HISTORIANSPEAKS: Could you begin by telling us a little about yourself and your involvement in the LGBTQ community in Boston, Massachusetts?
ARMSTRONG: My name is Jamilynn Armstrong. I am a 28-year-old Black Transgendered woman living in Boston. Massachusetts. I am an active participant in the LGBTQ community here. I have worked with the Silver Lining Mentoring Program as a Mentor for 10 years. I have also worked with the AIDS Action Committee founded by the Fenway Health Institute as a Trans Navigator for approximately 3 years. My duties with these organizations consist primarily of working with Black Transgendered women who are coming out, are in the process of transitioning and those looking for a positive role model. Most recently, I participated in the Trans Black Lives Matters March in Boston on June 13th in Franklin Park.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: How would you characterize the LGBTQ community in Boston, Massachusetts. What types of organizations and support services exist for Transgendered people?
ARMSTRONG: The Trans community in Boston is small. In my work, I have interacted with 13-15 women over an extended period. There are several organizations that address the needs of Transgendered people, Boston Glass is one such organization involved in this work. It works with young Transwomen, but also provides a special focus on POC. Another organization is the Trans Emergency Fund of Massachusetts, which provides financial assistance for emergencies of various types to Transwomen throughout the state. Another group, which no longer exists, but served an important role in the community, was Transcend. This organization provided important services to Trans community and its allies.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Black transgendered community, locally and nationally?
ARMSTRONG: There are many challenges facing Transwomen. Among the most important are employment, healthcare, and education. Regarding employment, Transwomen are fighting employer’s perceptions that they are primarily sex workers and their unwillingness to hire them. Employers are often unwilling to create a diverse workplace, often lack knowledge or understanding of Transwomen. In healthcare, providers often lack training on how to properly address Trans people, misgendering (use of the incorrect pronouns to identify Trans people) is a common occurrence, lack of sensitivity to their concerns, subtle prejudice and discrimination and unwillingness to serve them as opposed to Cis people. In education, institutions are not inclusive. Many lack rules on how to extend the proper civil and legal protections to Trans people.
Nationally, the challenges facing Trans people vary from state to state. Some states are more problematic than others. Violence is occurring toward Black Transwomen nationally and globally.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: This year’s Pride events have been largely canceled. However, the LGBTQ community is partnering with Black Lives Matter (BLM). Could you share your thoughts about this partnership?
ARMSTRONG: It is necessary to partner with BLM. A lot of Black Transwomen have been murdered and it needs to be acknowledged and something must be done. We should not have had to go to BLM. These issues should have already been addressed in other ways. Legislation should have been passed to protect the community and keep it safe. Lots of people who say they support the community, but they do not show up and are largely absent when challenges arise.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: The murder and harassment of Black Transwomen has reached epidemic proportions. The recent murders of transwomen of Rian Milton and Dominque “Rem’mie Fells and the murder of transman Tony McDade and harassment of Iyanna Dior are current manifestations of this problem. This has led to the hashtag #AllBlackLivesMatter. How do we address these issues?
ARMSTRONG: I am appalled by the loss of life, murder, and harassment of Black Transwomen. It is necessary to appreciate #All Black Lives, Transwomen are an important part of our community and their lives need to be appreciated. Organizations tend to support a Black Cis or Gay life and leave out Trans people. It should not come down to this. It is necessary to value all Black lives whether they are Cis, Hetero, Pansexual, Transgender, Lesbian, or Gay.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: What initiatives and programs would you like to see at the national, state, and local levels to address the plight and concerns of Black Transgendered people?
ARMSTRONG: I think there is a need for heightened visibility regarding issues related to Black Transwomen. There is great work being done by Trans Emergency Funds and Trans Visibility groups around the country. These organizations need to be seen not only at the local level but nationally. In many instances, these groups are not included or invited to give their perspectives. These groups need a national platform. They need to appear in mainstream media. This is necessary to increase public awareness and understanding of the plight of Black Transwomen.
HISTORIANSPEAKS: In closing, what is your message to Americans when they see or think about Black Transwomen
ARMSTRONG: People should be more open about how to best support and respect Trans people and their lifestyle and choices without being threatened or violent toward them. It is hard enough to live within a very oppressed community and also to be safe. Rather than jumping to conclusions or assuming, get to know Trans people on their own terms.
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Previously published on Historianspeaks.org.
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