TS Candii, a Black transgender woman and founder of a non-profit called Black Trans Nation, is calling on the city to give the green light for plans to create a “Black Trans Lives Matter” street mural in front of the historic Stonewall Inn.
In January, State Assemblymembers Dan Quart of Manhattan and Catalina Cruz of Queens joined out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan in issuing a letter of support to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Manhattan borough commissioner, Ed Pincar. In the letter, lawmakers described the mural as a tool to recognize the transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary community.
“Though their contributions have often been erased, transgender women of color played a pivotal role in the Stonewall rebellion and the advancement of LGBTQ rights,” the politicians penned in the letter. “Despite the strides made, TGNC individuals remain at the margins facing down stigmatization, discrimination, and violence.”
Several months after sending the letter, TS Candii said DOT officials have yet to respond, though it is not the first time the group has petitioned for the mural. Last year, the DOT also denied the project for reasons that are not clear.
“They don’t support our humanity,” TS Candii said. “They hear us, they see us, but they are doing nothing for us. They are just sitting on their hands.”
The DOT did not respond to Gay City News’ request for comment for this story. TS Candii believes the project’s delay reflects a much broader dismissal of transgender New Yorkers.
“Mentally, it’s draining,” she said. “Black Lives Matter had not only one mural; they had two, three all around the city, and we’re fighting for this one?”
She added, “Black trans lives matter, and to them, our lives don’t matter.”
Last summer, Gothamist recorded a total of eight “Black Lives Matter” murals in New York City. Black Trans Nation’s art project is inspired by the iconic “Black Lives Matter” street art in Manhattan’s Foley Square.
The mural, which would depict Trans Flags and Rainbows Flags, is meant to honor advocates’ most recent wins. TS Candii was one of the lead organizers behind the state’s repeal of a loitering law known as a ban on “Walking While Trans,” a policy that police officers used to disproportionately target transgender women of color. That legislation also seals all prior convictions and records under the statute.
The petition for the mural coincides with growing anti-trans legislation across the US in states such as Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee, where governors have recently signed bills banning transgender and some non-binary athletes from school sports. Efforts to restrict healthcare for trans youth are also well underway in states such as Arkansas, which banned gender-affirming medical care for trans youth after overriding Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto.
“As violence has escalated, transgender rights have been under vicious attack by the Trump administration, in federal courts, and state legislatures across the country,” the politicians wrote in a letter. “We have an opportunity to build on the progress New York City and the state have made protecting the rights of TGNC people by celebrating their rich history at Stonewall and lifting up their advocacy work.”
Quart said the mural would help push back against transphobia throughout the nation.
“As transgender youth is under attack in State Legislatures across the country and the trans community at large continues to experience disproportionate levels of violence and discrimination, New York City has an opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to advancing the health, safety, and rights of transgender people,” Quart said in a written statement to Gay City News. “Our state took an important step toward addressing police harassment and violence against transgender women of color when it repealed the Walking While Trans ban earlier this year. While the creation of a Black Trans Lives Matter mural would not signify the end of progress, it would communicate our promise to do more and to do better. I strongly urge the NYC Department of Transportation to support Black Trans Nation’s proposal to bring greater visibility and awareness to the issues facing the transgender community.”