The Trans Masculine Advocacy Network (TMAN) is organizing its fourth annual Philly Black Trans History: A Multigenerational Panel Discussion, in honor of Black History Month. At the William Way LGBT Community Center on Feb. 28, five local Black transgender individuals of all ages and walks of life will discuss their achievements and experiences.
TMAN is a Philadelphia-based grassroots organization “dedicated in its effort to uplift people of color along the transmasculine spectrum,” according to the organization’s Facebook page.
“[It is] presently the only event in our city that intentionally recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of local Black Trans individuals of all ages, during Black History Month,” Christian Lovehall said in an email. He is the lead organizer and co-host for the event and works as TMAN’s facilitator. He also founded the Philly Trans March and identifies as a Black Transsexual male of Jamaican descent.
The panel event draws local community members and allies who wish to learn about and celebrate the lives and experiences of Black trans Philadelphians. It also serves to facilitate connections between members of the community and local trans leaders.
“Many attendees look forward to the event every year and are moved by the powerful, honest and organic truth provided by the panelists,” Lovehall said. “[They] ultimately leave the event with new and meaningful community connections, as well as a deeper appreciation for the sacrifices and contributions made by Black Trans individuals in our own city.”
Local Black trans artists and entertainers will perform at this year’s panel event, to be revealed on the day of the event along with the panelists. “The element of surprise has become our tradition for this event,” Lovehall said.
Panelists who spoke at previous events include William H. Coghill, Sheila Colson-Pope, Hazel Edwards, Sharron L. Cooks, Alex Covington, Wit López and Tenika Watson.
Despite high rates of homicidal attacks, police brutality and day to day discrimination toward trans people of color, Lovehall and the other organizers strive for this event to honor the greatness of Black trans people, as opposed to focusing on injustices that members of the community have faced.
“I'm looking forward to this being a celebratory event,” he said. “We more so often gather as a community to mourn the loss of Black Trans Lives, rather than to give roses to those who are still here.”
Black trans people have indeed made significant achievements throughout history. Marsha P. Johnson was one of the first drag queens to frequent the Stonewall Inn and a member of the Gay Liberation Front. With Sylvia Rivera, she co-founded STAR, an LGBTQ trans-centered street activist organization and radical political collective that provided housing and support to homeless queer youth and sex workers in New York City.
In Philadelphia, the Office of LGBT Affairs recently named Celena Morrison, a Black trans woman and longtime leader in the local LGBTQ community, as executive director.
During Black History Month in Philadelphia, the accomplishments of Black, trans and queer people are frequently overlooked, Lovehall said.
“This event is important because it honors our ancestors and inspires us to continue building and strengthening our legacies,” he said. “[It] should not just be important to local Black Trans individuals, but to everyone in our community and city.”