Conversations for Change: The fight for Black trans lives

Conversations for Change

Community leaders, elected officials, law enforcement and health advocates discuss race inequities in our region in a live special at 7 p.m.

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KTXL) — Grace F. Lawrence can still laugh despite the violence she’s survived.

“The first time, I was shot in the head. The bullet is still there,” she said. “It can’t be moved.”

She bares the physical and mental scars from living as a Black transgender woman. 

“And the second time, it was battery acid. And then the third time I got attacked by seven guys that time. I fought back bitterly, “And I said, ‘No. Enough is enough. I’m going to live,’” Lawrence told FOX40.

Lawrence founded the Global Transgender Safety Task Force, turning her pain into passion — protecting transgender and non-binary people from violence.

“If I cannot educate and teach and pass this information on any tools for my youth and young adults to be prepared for this world and keep themselves safe, then I see I have failed my community,” she said.

The constant threat of death in her native country Liberia forced her to leave. She found freedom and safety in San Francisco and was granted asylum in 2006. 

But for her, even in the U.S., Black trans women are living in fear.

“You meet a sister, you meet a friend,” Lawrence said. “And four months later, she’s murdered.”

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality,  at least 28 transgender people have been killed so far in 2020. The majority of those deaths are Black trans women.

“They have fathers, they have mothers, they have brothers and they have sisters,” Lawrence said. “Some of them are parents themselves. I have two grown sons.”

At a time when racial equality and police brutality is at the forefront of the national conversation, Lawrence wants to make sure Black trans women aren’t left out. 

“Trans women are still treated like third- or fourth-class citizens, even with our own Black community,” she said.

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, trans people of color are six times more likely to experience violence from police compared to their White, cisgender counterparts. 

To Lawrence, Black trans women play a vital role in the fight for equality. She wants people to know all Black lives matter, and that includes Black trans lives.

“They, too, are part of the community,” she said. “And they are here to stay.”

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