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 second in a two-part series about Black trans women nationwide whom other trans women identify as making major moves. Read Part 1 here.
Tela La’Ray Love
Born and raised in the Big Easy, Love actually credits Hurricane Katrina with propelling her into a massive life change away from addiction and sex work. After temporarily relocating to Atlanta after the storm, she encountered transgender leaders whose guidance and acceptance propelled her into her own brand of powerful advocacy.
Today Love is the co-founder of New Legacy Ministries, a grassroots organization that raises the voices of marginalized communities, including transgender women of color. She has also served on the New Orleans Regional AIDS Planning Council, is active with the Positive Women’s Network and is an ally of Women With a Vision; BreakOUT! a support organization for NOLA’s LGBTQ community and allies; and the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. Recently, Love participated in a Human Rights Watch data-collection effort in New Orleans, an initiative geared at stopping harassment of transgender and commercial sex-worker populations as well as supporting access to syringe exchange.
Monica Joy Cross
The Rev. Monica Cross is a Navy veteran who served the nation for more than 20 years. Though many trans people are discouraged from ministry, Cross answered her call, founding the Global Prayer Network and earning an M.Div. from the Pacific School of Religion and a master’s in religious leadership for social change from the Starr King School for the Ministry. She also served as founding minister, CEO and transgender clergy consultant for A Different Imagination Institute of Richmond, Calif.
Currently pastor at the First Christian Church of Oakland and associate pastor at Tapestry Ministries in Berkeley, Calif., Cross also sits on the Oakland Transitional Grant Area Collaborative Community Planning Council. An avid writer, Cross authored the books Authenticity and Imagination in the Face of Oppression and Reflections of a Prophet Without Honor and maintains a blog, the Transgender Scholar, where she writes about faith, life as a Black transgender woman and HIV awareness.
Tiommi Jenae Luckett
Tiommi Jenae Luckett’s experience with advocacy began when she spoke publicly in her native Arkansas about the impact the Affordable Care Act had had on her as a Black trans woman. Her name became more widely known after she spoke at a 2014 Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS meeting. She participated in AIDS Watch 2014, where she had the opportunity to directly engage members of Congress about HIV/AIDS.
Luckett has since made the City of Brotherly Love her home. She currently serves as the Well Project’s communications coordinator. She is also active with the Positive Women’s Network and provides advisory leadership to Positively Trans, a program of the Transgender Law Center, as well as the United States People Living With HIV Caucus, the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition and the Arkansas Department of Health. A powerful voice in the trans and HIV communities, Luckett has been featured in A&U and Philadelphia magazines.
Milan Nicole Sherry
New Orleans native Milan Nicole Sherry is a founding member of BreakOUT!, where she became a youth organizer. In direct response to killings of Black transgender women, Sherry created the #BlackTransLivesMatter campaign and organized the first New Orleans Trans March, led by transgender and gender-nonconforming youths of color, and co-founded NOLA’s Trans March of Resilience.
Sherry has helped the Department of Justice reduce racial and gender profiling by the Crescent City’s police and a Human Rights Watch report linking discriminatory policing to HIV transmission. She’s been involved with the American Bar Association’s Opening Doors Project and featured on PBS’ In the Life and in Philadelphia Magazine. She received the 2013 NOLA Unity Award and the 2015 Rising Star Award, presented by EQLA Quality Louisiana. Currently residing in Philadelphia, she is a national board member of Positively Trans and a co-coordinator/outreach specialist at the Trans Equity Project.
Lourdes Ashley Hunter
A native of Detroit, Lourdes Ashley Hunter is the co-founder and executive director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, a Washington, D.C.-based grassroots initiative that uplifts the stories and experiences of trans and gender-nonconforming people of color and holds mainstream LGBTQ organizations accountable in order to achieve healing and restorative justice.
Hunter has helped government agencies such as the New York City Department of Homeless Services, the New York City Human Resources Administration and the New York City Police Department to develop culturally competent best practices. She has also led collaborative efforts with the United Nations, the White House Anti-Violence Task Force, the Office of National AIDS Policy and the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons. In 2012 Lourdes earned a bachelor’s degree in social theory, structure and change from SUNY Empire State College; in 2014 she earned an MPA from Rutgers University’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.
Whitney Alese is a writer and blogger whose work has been featured in BuzzFeed and other publications.