BCRW @ 50

Abolition and Trans Liberation

In 2014 BCRW hosted several discussions featuring CeCe McDonald, Tourmaline, and Dean Spade ‘97, both focused on trans resistance against the prisons and policing. Both events, events, “I Use My Love to Guide Me” (with CeCe McDonald, Tourmaline, and Dean Spade) and “No One Is Disposable” (with Tourmaline and Dean Spade), were preceded by a series of videos created by the speakers with BCRW Creative Director Hope Dector. Published in the weeks preceding each event, these videos centered trans women of color in the discussion of abolition, and aimed to spark a conversation about everyday practices of abolition. 

Using those videos as a jumping off point, the events dove deeper into questions of imagination, self-reflection, and how we can all be in the movement together. During “No One Is Disposable,” Tourmaline stated that the event’s title is, for her, the most radical idea—the idea that zero people can be thrown away, and everyone is worthy of community and justice. In order to create a world where this idea is upheld, she argued, our imaginations must expand. As Dean Spade noted during the event, in the U.S. we are led to believe that police keep us safe, and we are not allowed to imagine that anything else can grant us safety. Drawing on their experiences, Spade and Tourmaline identified imagination as an everyday practice of abolition, and one that was key for fighting for trans liberation. Dean notes that his work at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project taught him that no policy can make trans people safer in prison, because prison is designed to be violent. Tourmaline also pointed out that there is not just one form of institutional incarceration: detention centers, hospitals, homeless shelters, and psychiatric institutions are part of the PIC in addition to prisons and jails. Even in the face of these overwhelming, scary systems, Tourmaline believed that most basically, practices of dismantling systems of disposability require us to try to be together and form new relationships with each other. In her view, abolition could look like pointing out street harassment, or talking through conflict with a neighbor. 

“I Use My Love to Guide Me” drew heavily on McDonald’s own experience with incarceration after surviving a transphobic and racist attack. In the series of videos, McDonald spoke on the importance of love in surviving impossible situations; during the event, she and Spade spoke about how the prison tries to break inmates down by restricting physical touch, contact with loved ones, and the types of support necessary to get through the conditions of the prison. They discussed how community support and love provide safety, not the prisons and the police, who more often are the danger in trans communities. McDonald recounted that, on the night of her attack, the police were present but reluctant to intervene in transphobic violence against her friends—and instead were active participants in their harassment. She argued that the police are funded by money from our pockets but they “choose who they want to protect, they choose who they want to serve. And it’s not us.” Speaking on the importance of love in the face of her trauma from the attack, CeCe said: “I use my love to kind of guide me through those fears.”

These events were the first in an ongoing series of online events at BCRW centering around abolition, transformative justice, trans liberation, and disability justice. 

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