Cece McDonald

“Don’t ever feel like what someone else says you are trumps who you are” – Cece McDonald.

On Tuesday, March 17, I had the opportunity to attend Cece McDonald’s presentation “Black Trans Lives Matter” in the Harriet Johnson Auditorium. Cece McDonald is a black trans woman and social activist from Minneapolis, MN. She came into the public eye after an incident in June 2012 where she was a victim of a violent hate crime while walking to the grocery store with some of her friends. She was verbally and physically abused and, while defending herself, ended up killing her attacker.

She accepted a plea bargain of 41 months for second-degree manslaughter. Even though she is a trans woman, she was housed in male prisons against her gender identity. This attracted the attention of many advocate groups and individuals, including actress and activist Laverne Cox who is currently producing a documentary called “Free Cece.” Today, Cece works towards education and equality for all people.

Cece discussed a plethora of information in her presentation, from the very real issue of violence towards women to the issues with the prison industrial complex and the goals of the prison abolition movement. One of the biggest things that stuck out to me from the discussions was the quote that acts as the title to this post. “Don’t ever feel like what someone says you are, trumps who you are.” I think that this is such a powerful message. Absolutely no one can tell you who you are other than yourself. You define your truth and no one has the right to change that. As Cece said, “You’re here. You’re existing. And you can’t let anyone take that away from you [even though] they will try.”

To share everything I learned would result in a blog post that kept scrolling forever, so I will share what I believe to be the main points that really stuck out to me:

  • There is a lack of people actually getting involved. Many people want to say that they are allies to the LGBT– specifically trans– community, but they don’t actually do anything. To be an ally means to be actively fighting for equality. You can’t just throw the “ally” label on yourself to seem progressive.
  • Violence towards women is a serious issue. Physical, verbal and sexual violence all occur in greater numbers against women, and this includes trans* women. This fact is something people often forget when they are fighting against this violence.
  • Racism exists in every community. This includes the LGBTQIA community. Too often people have the idea that because they are a marginalized group that they cannot be oppressive of other marginalized groups, and quite frankly that is an idiotic notion. Failure to recognize this will result in no real change.
  • The community of people of color isn’t just black people. To ignore all the other communities of color creates a divide, which will only make the struggle towards equality harder.
  • GET INVOLVED. In the words of CeCe McDonald: “If you claim to be an ally, be a true ally. If you stand in solidarity, stand with us longer and stronger.” Enough said.
  • We need to take a critical look at the prison industry. The prison ideal was built upon inequality, and it is too corrupt and broken to be fixed. It needs to be abolished and evaluated.
  • You exist as a whole and not as parts of yourself. “People either see me as Black or as Trans, and people never really see me as both…I am a Trans Woman of Color and I can’t separate those things.” – Cece McDonald.

Inequality, racism, transphobia and marginalization: these are all very real realities and it is our job as communities of people to work towards eradicating these ideals. Cece noted, “I’m always seen as the angry black woman and you know what? I have the right to be angry.” We all do. We shouldn’t be bystanders in this struggle. We all need to get angry and use that anger to work towards true equality for everyone in all aspects of who they are. Just because I’m am able-bodied cisgender white man doesn’t mean I can’t fight for the rights of my fellow people who don’t receive the privileges I do from being of that status. We all need to work together to make sure that people can go about their lives being true to themselves and not receive any discrimination for doing so.