Black trans lives matter banner at George Floyd protestImage copyright
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“We firmly believe until black trans lives matter, absolutely everywhere, black lives broadly won’t really matter anywhere,” says photographer and activist Ren Mars, 25.

He’s helped organise a Black Trans Lives Matter march on Saturday in London.

Those taking part say they will march to raise awareness of black trans lives who have been lost, celebrate the black trans community and protest against potential changes to the gender recognition act.

“We’re tired of asking for permission to be seen and heard and left to live as we are – we’re demanding it now.”

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Ren Mars

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Ren hopes the march will attract thousands of trans people and allies

Ren credits the Black Lives Matter movement for “inspiring them” as it’s gained “such massive traction” since the death of George Floyd in the US.

It has sparked worldwide protests.

And he’s hoping this traction will bring change for the black trans community too.

Rem’mie Fells and Riah Milton

Two of the most recent black trans women deaths occurred in the US within the same 24 hours earlier this month on 9 June.

Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a black transgender woman was killed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and 25-year-old Riah Milton, also black and trans, was killed in Liberty Township, Ohio.

“Both were misgendered in the press, calling them ‘men’ after their deaths,” Ren tells BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Since 2013, more than 130 transgender and non-binary individuals have been killed in the United States, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The HRC reports that transgender women of colour — particularly black transgender women — are disproportionately affected by fatal violence.

But Ren says this isn’t just a US issue.

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Twitter

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Naomi Hersi was murdered in London in March 2018

“We shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking this doesn’t happen in the UK – we know for a fact that it does.

“For instance Naomi Hersi is the most recent that I have heard of that was a major news story because she was killed near Heathrow airport.”

Ren says even though it happens more frequently in the US it’s felt by black trans people in the UK.

“The trans community is disparate and vibrant. We know we are frequently and actively targeted.

“We know because we live it, and we know it when we see it happen to someone else even in a far flung part of the world that isn’t us. If it happened to that person it could happen to me, it could happen to any of us.”

What does transgender mean?

Stonewall (the UK LGBT rights charity) describes a transgender person as someone whose “gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.”

Some transgender people may transition to physically become the gender they identify with, which can include hormone therapy or surgery – but not all trans people do this.

The march follows UK government plans to revise proposed measures to enable trans people to change their birth gender without a medical diagnosis.

Currently, under the Equality Act 2010, transgender people can self-identify their gender.

The 2010 act says: “A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.”

A spokesman for the Government Equalities Office has said: “We will publish our response to our consultation on the Gender Recognition Act this summer.”

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London Trans Pride

Last year saw the first ever London Trans Pride and Ren says the Black Trans Lives Matter march “seems like natural progression”.

‘Black people deserve better’

The organisers of Saturday’s march have asked attendees to bring flowers, wear masks and keep to social distancing as much as possible.

“We’re expecting a few thousand. We’re expecting this to be even bigger than London Trans Pride given the momentum around Black Lives Matter.

“As both a black and trans person I never thought I’d be living to see a point in time when almost the entire world came together as one to say this is not acceptable, black people deserve better and we should’ve always known that they deserved better.

“We should’ve always been fighting harder and we didn’t, so we’re going to do that now and we’re not going to stop.”

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