Whether organizing marches and protests, lobbying lawmakers or leading social justice campaigns, Black transgender women are leading the fight for equality and human and civil rights for trans and gender-nonconforming people of color.
Here, the first in a two-part series about Black trans women nationwide whom other trans women identify as making major moves.
Dee Dee Ngozi Chamblee
The founder and executive director of LaGender Inc., an organization serving Atlanta’s transgender community, Dee Dee Ngozi Chamblee has organized grassroots initiatives and served communities of color for more than 25 years. Her tireless work and passion for raising transgender awareness, as well as her expertise in HIV/AIDS, homelessness, mental health, mass incarceration and police profiling, have helped transform life for human beings living in the ATL.
Chamblee’s honors include receiving the Champions of Change award from President Barack Obama for her extraordinary work, and becoming the first trans woman inducted into the 2020 Leading Women’s Society, an honor granted to HIV-positive women nominated by their communities. Chamblee is also co-director of the Solutions Not Punishment Coalition, a Black trans-led, broad-based coalition working for a fair and balanced criminal-justice system.
Carmarion D. Anderson
An activist, minister, educator and musician, Carmarion D. Anderson is a passionate voice for transgender rights. Called to ministry at age 12, Anderson began her transition at 16, becoming legally female at age 19. Today she is a minister at Living Faith Covenant Church in Dallas and is the South regional minister of TransSaints, a network of transgender clergy preparing people to advocate for equal rights for transgender people. Anderson is also a public health consultant focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention and health disparities in marginalized communities.
Noting the lack of Black role models in Dallas’ non-profit leadership, Anderson has become outspoken and passionate about, according to the Dallas Observer, “having her voice heard to bridge advocacy of all entities and spirituality in the LGBT and trans community.” She will speak at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, this month.
Bré Anne Campbell
While working with AmeriCorps in 2004, Bré Anne Campbell first encountered and later became involved in HIV advocacy work. In 2010, two months before her gender transition, she was diagnosed with HIV. Nevertheless, she persisted, gaining experience in HIV testing and counseling through the Horizons Project, a youth-focused HIV testing and care program at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and Detroit Medical Center, and becoming a published researcher with the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
A co-founder of the Trans Sistas of Color Project—Detroit, Campbell is also a board member of the Positive Women’s Network—USA, a 2015 Victory Institute Empowerment Fellow, a national advisory board member of Positively Trans and a member of the 2016 Brown Boi Project’s Executive Director Training Program. She was featured in the Greater Than AIDS “Empowered: Trans Women & HIV” campaign.
NEW YORK CITY
Kiara St. James
Executive director of the New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG), a social justice non-profit led by trans woman of color, Kiara St. James heads the organization’s efforts to address policies that affect trans and gender-nonconforming people.
Born into an evangelical Christian home in Beaumont, Texas, that rejected her gender expression, St. James spent most of her adolescence with a foster family in Heidelberg, Germany. After living in Atlanta during the early ’90s, where she first saw LGB people in positions of power, St. James moved to New York. She became an activist “by accident,” after a chance encounter in 1999 with Housing Works demonstrators heading to Washington, D.C., to fight for Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funding. She worked for organizations from Harlem United to FROSTED, or From Our Streets on the Caravan, before co-founding NYTAG. Among many honors, she has been interviewed by Laverne Cox for HuffPost.
A human rights activist, community leader, writer and motivational speaker, Miasha Forbes is a force to be reckoned with. In addition to being the founder and executive director of the Just for Us Gender Diversity Project—a not-for-profit advocacy and aid organization for people who are transgender, intersex or gender nonconforming—Forbes is also a core collective member and board member at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a New York City-based legal-aid organization that supports low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex or gender nonconforming.
She also generously lends her spare time to various New York City-based LGBTQ community-based organizations as a relentless advocate of HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. She has been featured in HuffPost, Out magazine and Rolling Stone for her passionate and fearless approach to sharing the concerns that affect trans women daily.
Whitney Alese is a writer and blogger whose work has been featured in BuzzFeed and other publications.