In one of the first TikTok videos Kissy DuerrÃ© posted of herself, she was combing her afro-textured hair to a trending song.
The Saskatoon content creator was just trying to pass the time during the pandemic.
However, when the Black Lives Matter movement intensified following the George Floyd murder Last summer, DuerrÃ© wanted to highlight transgender issues, especially those faced by people of color.
âIt was then that I realized there was this lack of representation of black transgender women,â said DuerrÃ©.
She created a video discussing the intersection of being transgender, black and female within the Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ movements.
Although black transgender women have often been at the forefront of these movements, they remain among the most diminished.
DuerrÃ©’s open discussion on transmogynoir – the aversion or prejudice of transgender women of color – got a lot of attention on TikTok, so she started posting more videos advocating for transgender people in a fun, light-hearted way – with a little sass.
âI think it is very important for society to know [the issues], be exposed to it and be comfortable with it, âDuerrÃ© said of his videos.
Social media, which can be a breeding ground for internet trolls and racism, has become a better platform for advocacy during the pandemic, especially for marginalized voices.
TikTok and Instagram can play a role in reclaiming space because they have few barriers to entry, said MelVee X, board member of The Color Factor in Calgary, an organization that provides healing spaces. to the BIPOC community.
âIf you don’t see yourself, you can expose yourself on social media and create your own spaces,â X said.
Social media can also be a place to learn and fill in gaps in services, institutional issues and struggles.
âThe mainstream media still has so much prejudice and so much work to do. But if you don’t see yourself represented in it, if you aren’t interested in fighting the system, you can create your own channels for sharing and promoting. ‘information, “says X.
“It can really be a way to reclaim ourselves and our identities.”
Visibility in social spaces “matters in many ways,” said Biko Beauttah, an Instagram influencer and black transgender woman based in Toronto, but especially for transgender women of color, who are among the most marginalized.
âSocial media is a very powerful tool that has blessed all of our lives in the sense that it has given everyone the ability to create a platform for yourself regardless of traditional media or people who otherwise wouldn’t allow you probably not or would not give you your own space. “
In 2006, Beauttah moved to Canada as a refugee from Kenya due to the lack of protection and injustices against LGBTQ people there.
When she arrived in Toronto, she lived in a refugee shelter for six months. Eventually, she became a community leader and founded Trans Workforce, the world’s first career and networking symposium for transgender people.
âIt wasn’t safe to be in the world, but the online visibility allows us to find each other and it doesn’t make you feel alone if you’re a trans teen in a small community or in the basement of your parents, âBeauttah mentioned.
“Suicide is very high among trans teens, but when you see that you are not alone and that there are others like you, this visibility can save lives.”
Although the community of black trans women on TikTok is small, it is well connected, allowing women to find support and see others who are like them. It can also open a window to a world full of allies.
âI didn’t have that privilege growing up,â said DuerrÃ©. “And I always thought how nice it would have been to see someone like me, live their life, be shamelessly themselves. I think that’s the most beautiful thing.”
DuerrÃ© also received endless messages from fans. They say things like: “You gave me the courage to love who I am, you gave me the courage to go out with my parents, you gave me the courage to wake up this morning”, a- she declared.
“These are very simple words, but they mean a lot to me. They show that what I do, what I create, has an impact on people and we need it.”
She ultimately amassed over 600,000 fans and nearly 18 million likes. Earlier this year, she was selected as one of the Black pioneers.
DuerrÃ© and Beauttah plan to use TikTok and Instagram to continue advocating for black transgender women while educating others. Beauttah compares it to a stint in which she took over from transgender rights pioneers like Californian Tracie Jada O’Brien, whose work focuses largely on transgender health; The founders of the Gay Liberation Front and the Street Travesti Action Revolutionaries Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera of New York; and Miss Major, who has fought for the rights of black transgender women in the United States, especially within the justice system.
âThese women of color fought so that my generation and I could have these freedoms that we see today,â Beauttah said.
âI am doing my job to fight for my community and it will be your turn to take this witness and continue the journey. Others have walked so that I can walk, but it is your turn to pick it up and go. run to the finish line. “
For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories within the black community – check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.