Meet the black trans activist who’s putting youth at the forefront

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28-year old Elle Hearns is an activist who is fighting for black, trans women to have the right to be safe.

In the US, 11 trans women were killed in 2014 whilst in the 2015, a further 11 have been murdered including; India Clarke, London Chanel, Yazmin Payne and Kristina Gomez Reinwald.

With a high percentage of these women being from ethnic minorities, Ms Hearns had had enough and  began to set up safe spaces for black trans women in her home state of Ohio.

Her campaigning didn’t stop there.

With social media campaigns such as #BlackOut and #BlackLivesMatter – in which Elle is a strategic partner – storming the web, it was only a matter of time that people including Hearns would collaborate and organize the first international retreat for #BlackLivesMatter.

The conference called “The Movement for Black Lives” was a three-day conference with many areas of focus including violence against transgender women.

Aiming, and achieving, to create a safe space for black people was a massive feat – with Elle Hearns commenting how “this was for everyone.”

She told MTV: “We wanted to make sure all lives are reflected. Not just activists and organizers…Because when black lives are being destroyed in different ways, we have to come together.”

With Hearns’ home state of Ohio being home to many reports of police brutality, many people have been questioning as to whether the area can be seen as “hotbed” for anti-transgender violence.

“I think we were able to really bring a spotlight [to the experiences of trans people colour] by following the leadership of black trans women,” she explained.

“We were also able to highlight some of the real life experiences that folks actually were bringing to the conference beyond just, “I can’t use a bathroom” stories, like “I can’t get a job”, or “I can’t get ID with the correct gender listed…”

One factor of the event that was most noticeable was the youth presence.

The activist told MTV News: “Youth have to be at the forefront of this movement. A lot of the things that people who are older have experienced are being experienced very differently by young people.”

Social media is the one of the best ways for young people to get involved – connecting with each other through Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. The weekend even had it’s own hashtag, #M4BL.

Hearns is now the Central Region Field Coordinator for GetEQUAL, an american non-profit advocacy organisation campaigning for total social and politcal equality for LGBT people.

With more and more transgender celebrities coming into the limelight – note Laverne Cox and, of course, Caitlyn Jenner – and multiple universities implementing better facilities, there is a strong hope of change for transgender people.


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