MHP   |  January 19, 2014

Becoming aware of the plight of trans people

CeCe McDonald, Laverne Cox, Katie Burgess and Rea Carey join the MHP Show to talk about the trajectory of trans people of color in America and the high rate of violence that is faced by the community.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> today we are honored to bring you the first television interview with cece mcdonald since her release monday. cece , a trans woman served 19 months in a men's prison after pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter for killing a man during a racist and transphobic attack on her and her friends. cece joins us now live from minneapolis. sitting next to her, katie burgas, and here at my table in new york, laverne cox, an actress who starred in "orange is the new plaqew black." she's also a transgender activist and producer of the upcoming documentary, "free cece ," and also joining us, ray kelly , the director of the national gay and lesbian task force . thanks to everyone for being here.

>> thank you.

>> cece , this is your first television interview since your release. and i want to start by giving you the mic. what would you like to say to us?

>> well, i'm just really blessed and excited to be back in the world, so i can begin, or should i say, continue to advocate and be a leader in the trans community and the african-american community , and the lbgt community , and to be a role model and inspiration for trans women and trans women of color.

>> cece , i want you to know that we had your congressperson, representative keith ellison was on the show yesterday, and when we mentioned that you would be coming on today, we asked congressman ellison if he wanted to make a statement, and i wanted to read it to you, because i thought it was lovely. mr. ellison says, it appears that cece mcdonald defended herself after a bias motivated attack came on her. however, any loss of life is tragic, and therefore i have sympathy for the family of deceased. cece 's case reveals the disturbing intolerance of transgender citizens, and i hope through her struggle, the plight of trans people has come to greater public awareness. so i wanted you to know that your representative sees you in exactly that way, as a role model to give us an opportunity to talk about the inequalities facing trans people .

>> and that's very, exciting and good to hear, because a lot of times, people don't even acknowledge or understand the lives of trans women , especially african-american trans women , because we always are faced with such hardships. and it seems like, i feel like sometimes we're just taken as props or people just see us as gimmicks and a lot of times, we're misunderstood and, you know, people usually don't take us serious, because they see us as something other than human beings .

>> the point that cece is making there, laverne , is such an important one. and is reproduced in our media, reproduced in our popular culture, over and over . and i wonder, as we think about cece 's case, i keep thinking, had cece not been a trans woman , had been a african- american woman who was attacked in a racial attack, and then ended up going to jail as a result of defending herself, that the civil rights community around racial issues would likely have gotten involved in the way that the trans community got involved in time. in other words, i wonder if it was hard for the racial civil rights community to see cece as part of the community because she's a trans woman .

>> some folks in the black community did. martin hill wrote a wonderful piece, why aren't we feeting for cece that won a glad media award earlier this year. and there were some folks from the black community who have been advocating for cece . but i think cece 's case really is representative of so many of the harsh realities and the intersections of transphobia, transmisogyny, racism, that face the so many women of color . our homicide is so large, and over 53% of the homicides were transwomen. 73% were people of color . 16% of transgendered people have been incarcerated compared to 10% of the rest of the population. so there's forces, systemic forces in our society that say that we're not who we say we are, that we're always the only genders that we're assigned at birth. and that we should not exist, that we should disappear. what is so powerful about cece 's story is that night, on june 5th , 2011 , she said, i will not disappear. i will not be a statistic. i will not be one of those trans folks who go down and whose lives are treated as if they don't matter. when i met cece for the first time, when i was shooting the documentary, "free cece " a few months ago and i interviewed her in prison, what i was so moved by and what i said to jack garris, our director, she said, this woman knows that she is loved. and so many trans women of color out there feel that we are not loved, we are not wanted we the lbgt community , by communities of color, by women's organizations, the women's community . so we need a lot of love. brother cornel west reminds us that justice is what love looks like out in public. and i believe that the fear advocacy that tyson and the supporters of cece in minneapolis show us that the lessons are that we can advocate fiercely for trans women of color. this is what this advocacy looks like and should look like on a national level.

>> and laverne , i so appreciate you laying those statistics there, because i think it also helps us to understand in that moment, and we can't readjudicate your case, obviously, cece , but it is important for people to understand, at the moment you are faced with that violence, you are faced with it with this rate of murder and death, so the reactions to experiencing it, it's not, you know, this is not a mean hashtag, right, coming at you. this is the reality --

>> i think it's really important to note, too, that deane schmidt, the person who died that night, he had a swastika that to do on his chest. he was a known white supremacist. these were white supremacists who attacked cece and her friends that night. her life was in danger.

>> of course, the difficulty is, we can't reed we can we can't readjudicate the case. there's a guilty plea . but into take your case, cece , and think more broadly, not only about the question of what happens in that moment, but specifically about the conditions of incarceration, women in particular. and we'll dig into that when we get back. getting