Global Roundup: Activists Protest Texas Transphobia, New Documentary on Early Black Beauty Cosmetics Line, Kae Tempest on Coming Out as Non-Binary
Curated by FG intern Lydia Georgison
Crowds gathered in front of the governor's mansion in Austin to protest Gov. Greg Abbott's directive to investigate families of trans kids for child abuse. Credit: Jordyn Cole via Xtra
A Texas court on March 11 halted all “child abuse” investigations into families that affirm trans youth. LGBTQ2S+ advocates gathered on the steps of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s mansion two days later to protest a directive requiring the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming medical care to trans youth for child abuse.
More than 200 advocates spoke out against attacks on trans youth and affirmed that trans children are loved.
Organized by Trans Resistance of Texas and PFLAG Austin, the demonstration was live-streamed on Twitch to encourage supporters to loudly broadcast it from anywhere “to make sure trans kids cry for help is heard.”
I think that’s important in this time because what these people are doing is a legacy of trying to demonize marginalized people. They try to use fear tactics to make it seem like getting our affirming care is a bad thing, but health care is not abuse. -Diamond Stylz, executive director of Black Transwomen Inc.
Under Abbott”s February 22 directive, at least nine Texas families were reportedly under investigation for affirming their trans children. Targets of the policy included a mother of trans son who dined with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in 2016 and a social worker whose child was over 18 and thus no longer a minor.
Before the March 11 statewide injunction, the courts had already blocked investigations in two cases: a DFPS worker who faced losing her job over the directive and a counsellor who provides services to trans youth as part of her practice.
Abbott’s directive orders “mandatory reporters” such as health care providers and teachers to report cases of a young person receiving gender-affirming care or face potentially criminal penalties.
Texas Civil District Judge Amy Clark Meachum hopes Abbott’s directive will be struck down fully in court. Abbott’s order is considered beyond the scope of his duty and unconstitutional.
We know that this is not about sports or health care or gender markers on IDs. This is about trying to keep trans kids from growing up to be trans adults like me, and we are not here for it. We cannot let that happen. - Chris Mosier, the first out trans athlete to compete in an Olympic trial
The rally took place at the beginning of South by Southwest, an annual media, tech, and music festival which draws thousands to Austin every March. Several counter-protesters reportedly affiliated with Infowars' conspiracy theory website showed up to disrupt the demonstration.
Between speakers, organizers of the event played recorded testimony of trans youth affected by the Texas directive. In one of the recordings, an eight-year-old trans girl described how her first visit to the state capitol was to defend her existence.
But if I don’t show up, you won’t hear the real stories, kids like me, whose future will be crushed. Opportunities taken away before I’m even given a chance to try. I think maybe you need more trans people in your life. Every time I meet trans kids and grownups, my heart grows. Don’t be a grinch, let your heart grow.
Trans kids across the US are forced to fight for their rights following what advocates say is an unprecedented legislative assault on the LGBTQ2S+ community. According to the Human Rights Campaign, more than 130 bills have been introduced this year that would limit resources and protections for trans people, particularly those under the age of 18.
They include 38 proposed bans on gender-affirming health care and 67 bills preventing trans-student-athletes from competing by their gender identity.
If signed into law, many of these bills would cause widespread harm. In their speech, Alicia Roth Weigel, the Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Austin, noted that youth medical care bans often contain explicit carve-outs allowing doctors and medical care providers to continue performing unwanted medical interventions on intersex infants.
These operations are commonly performed before a child is old enough to consent meaningfully to surgery, and they remain legal in all 50 US states. Weigel said the historic onslaught of anti-trans legislation is yet another reminder that LGBTQ2S+ advocates must explicitly fight for intersex rights alongside trans equality.
We can and we must fight what they’re doing to strip away basic health care for trans kids, without throwing intersex kids under the bus. - Alicia Roth Weigel
But as activists stood outside the governor's mansion holding signs like “ Protect Trans Kids” and “Defend Trans Rights,” the day’s speakers reminded the crowd that what they are fighting for first and foremost is each other.
Alok Vaid-Menon, an author and non-binary activist who hails from College Station, Texas, urged LGBTQ2S+ people and their allies to lean on one another for community.
Before politicians and before organizations, what we had was each other and they can’t take that away from us. - Alok Vaid-Menon
Fashion Fair cosmetics has been revived under the helm of two entrepreneurs, Desiree Rogers and Cheryl Mayberry McKissack.Heather Houston / Courtesy HBO Max via NBCnews.com
In the new documentary “The Beauty of Blackness,” Grammy Award-winning singer and actor Kelly Rowland reveals a hidden struggle that affected her confidence onstage: finding makeup that matched her complexion.
It’s so unfortunate because I remember talking to other models, like supermodels, who said they had the same situation.They would fix it up themselves — and here we are, 20 years later, and they’re figuring it out, still. - Kelly Rowland
“The Beauty of Blackness,” now available on HBO Max, follows the cross-generational journey of Fashion Fair, one of the first Black-owned makeup lines. It follows co-owners Desiree Rogers and Cheryl Mayberry McKissack on their path of acquiring the brand, the challenges they experienced along the way and the impact the Fashion Fair is making in the Black community.
When beauty pioneer Eunice Johnson launched her cosmetics line Fashion Fair in 1973, she created a new space for Black women in the industry. Johnson is also the wife of John H. Johnson, the founder of Jet and Ebony magazines, who designed makeup specifically for women of darker skin tones. The company became one of the first Black-owned international cosmetic lines and broke racial barriers in business by celebrating Black beauty.
Fashion Fair went out of business two years before Rogers and McKissack purchased the brand in October 2019. After reaching the peak of its commercial success in 2003, the company declined due to its inability to keep up with heightened demand and increasing competition.
After discovering that Fashion Fair was headed toward bankruptcy court, Rogers and McKissack were granted ownership of the brand after winning a bid during an auction.
Black women often face hurdles in the beauty industry, both in the lack of makeup products for those with darker skin tones and the lack of representation in who owns the companies. In 2019, Black consumers accounted for almost 90 percent of the money spent on ethnic hair and beauty products. Yet Black ownership is not reflective of this outsize influence: Black-owned beauty brands represent only 4 percent of high-end makeup sales.
When Rogers entered the entrepreneurial world, she faced obstacles that many Black women can relate to: She was part of the first generation to go to school and came from a family that wasn’t wealthy. Fueled by her own experience, she wants to ensure a safe space for dialogue among other Black business leaders regarding challenges their companies may face.
In its nearly 50-year history, the makeup brand has raised more than $55 million for the Black community through charity events. Fashion Fair also created a scholarship fund for Spelman College students pursuing a career in entrepreneurship. Students will also participate in an internship.
In November, the company initiated “The Art of Shade Matching,” a month-long, nationwide promotional event encouraging women to travel to Sephora and find their matching foundation.
At one of the events in New Orleans, which featured a performance by rapper Big Freedia, McKissack said she was approached by a Chicago woman who shared how Fashion Fair was the only makeup able to cover her daughter’s birthmark helped boost her confidence.
McKissack said Fashion Fair not only had “great meaning” for the woman but also her daughter. “So that’s that cross-generational experience that just can’t be matched,” she said.
Rogers said that at one of their events in Chicago, people were brought to tears over the nostalgia of seeing their children and grandchildren using the products.
They know that we’re going to take care of them…You’re not going to get there and not find your shade, or feel like, ‘Oh, gosh, this doesn’t look like me.’ We’re doing this with love because we are you. I think everyone at some level wants to look good to themselves — in terms of what they’ve chosen and how they’re presenting themselves — and it shouldn’t be that hard of a process. - Desiree Rogers
By bringing the brand back, Rogers and McKissack are incorporating nearly 50 years of knowledge in skin care.
For so many years, we have not been a part of the decision-making process. We have not been able to say, ‘No, we want this and not only do we want it, we’re going to do it ourselves and get it out there in a significant way across the country.’ - Desiree Rogers
Kae Tempest via The Guardian
The hip-hop poet and playwright Kae Tempest has spoken for the first time about coming out as non-binary. In an interview with The Guardian, they said their coming out was “huge” and “a beautiful but difficult thing to do publicly.”
I’ve been struggling to accept myself as I am for a long time. I have tried to be what I thought others wanted me to be so as not to risk rejection. This hiding from myself has led to all kinds of difficulties in my life. And this is a first step towards knowing and respecting myself better.”- Kae Tempest, in an August 2020 Instagram post announcing their new name and pronouns
Kae Tempest rose to fame through the ranks of London’s performing arts scene in their late twenties. With their unmistakable South London accent, their music, such as their Mercury-nominated album Everybody Dawn, tapped into both the quiet beauty and gritty silences of London living.
However, it is hugely different being a trans person in the public eye. As any trans or non-binary person in the UK knows, the rampant anti-trans hostility in the media and politics over the last few years means it can be challenging or dangerous to be openly trans.
According to Vice World News, reports of homophobic hate crimes have risen by 210 percent over the last six years, while reports of transphobic hate crimes rose by 332 percent in the same period.
But most anti-trans hate crimes go underreported, with the community reporting they don’t trust the police not to be transphobic themselves.
The prejudice trans people experience is routinely stoked by the so-called “gender critical” activists who harass any trans person who dares to be visible online. In this atmosphere, Tempest has good reason to choose their words carefully.
(Trans people are) used in these weird ways to express people’s deep fears about other things…Obsessed over by people void of humanity. I don’t understand how my body, our bodies, became a territory for war. These bodies we’ve spent lifetimes living in…I don’t want to say the wrong thing for my people. When trans issues are spoken about in the press, it’s often not trans people doing the speaking. So in this rare moment there’s a trans person talking about trans things, I don’t want to fuck up or waste the opportunity. - Kae Tempest
Tempest said they came out a few months after the pandemic began.
All that fear was about shame. I was afraid, because of internalised homophobia and transphobia. I was afraid to be who I was, because I’d learned that it was ugly. I was resigned to being wrong all my life. Coming out and saying I’m trans, non-binary, is me saying I’m on a journey…But I realised the ramifications of what might happen didn’t seem as scary as living with this boiling hot secret in my heart for eternity. - Kae Tempest
Lydia Georgison (she/her) is a first-year student at the University of Ottawa. She is passionate about becoming a feminist by learning and broadening her knowledge of topics that have to do with feminism. She spends most of her time studying in the field of criminology.
Lydia strongly believes the key to excellence within society is listening and learning from everyone’s opinions. She suggests that the key to a peaceful and accepting community is the result of educating ourselves on controversial topics.