On Friday morning at the United Nations headquarters, trans activist Janet Mock spoke on a panel where she stressed the need for more visibility of trans black women in discussions about rape and sexual assault.
The panel—titled Justice, Recognition and Development: A Panel Debate on the Status of Women of African Descent—was part of a four-day series of events organized by Black Women’s Blueprint, with support from the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, as well as UN Women. Their collective goal is to bring awareness to legacies of rape and sexual assault against black women that go unnoticed or overlooked.
The discussion also focused on accountability and policies to protect black women who have been sexually assaulted.
In the clip above, Mock describes trans black women as among America’s “most vulnerable” and marginalized groups, a point familiar to those close to trans women struggles.
“When folks say that they’re fighting on behalf or advocating for the protection of girls and women, they’re usually speaking about a very specific girl,” says Mock. “She’s usually not trans. She’s usually perceived to be straight. She is usually the epitome of respectability. She hasn’t engaged in sex work. She is white and/or as close to whiteness as possible. We create and recreate these hierarchies within our own communities as well, the right kind of victim, the one that we will rally and fight for and advocate on behalf of.”
Other participants in the panel included Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and Jannie Ligons, one of the victims of ex-cop Daniel Holtzclaw, who was sentenced to 263 years in prison for rape and assault against black women.
In her speech, Mock referenced the startling number of trans black women who routinely get pushed into sex work to make ends meet, citing stats about trans black women as the most likely targets of violence. “Trans black women live at the intersection of what I like to call: pass her by and pay her no mind,” says Mock.
More panels and events are taking place over the weekend with various activists, sexual assault survivors and guest speakers, including Ms. Magazine co-founder Dorothy Pitman Hughes and Ida B. Wells’ great granddaughter Michelle Duster.
Correction: This post has been edited to credit the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.