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. [TheBody editor's note: We are cross-posting this series as a single article.]
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.
Br****é 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.
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.
[Note from TheBody: This article was originally published by Black AIDS Institute as a two-part feature. Part one was originally posted on March 6, 2019; part two was posted on March 9. We have cross-posted them with their permission.]