Embodying Sisterhood: Community Politics of Black Cisgender and Transgender Womanhood
Thomas, Victoria Elizabeth
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Embodying Sisterhood: Community Politics of Black Cisgender and Transgender Womanhood is an interdisciplinary project originating from my intellectual activism in the service of social justice to increase the chances of Black cis and trans women collectively surviving and thriving as Black women. Examining popular media representations of Black cisgender and transgender womanhood, I argue that Black Sisterhood, as a cultural practice of solidarity, should fundamentally be rooted in anti-trans ideologies of Black womanhood. A homogenized Black sisterhood that fails to perform labor for individuals that do not conform to dominant ideologies of family, gender, and sexuality directly contributes to the violence and discrimination that trans women face. Embodying Sisterhood intervenes in the invisibility of transgender identities within Black cultural politics and cisgender gender ideologies of Black womanhood to argue that cisgender women must confront our unconscious and conscious rejection of trans women from Black sisterhood. It is imperative to our continued survival that we—Black cisgender women—leverage our privilege to open spaces for Black trans women to flourish. The examination of sisterhood among Black cisgender and transgender women in Embodying Sisterhood utilizes theories from cultural studies, Black feminist studies, and transgender studies to unpack the ideological, material, and social constraints of sisterhood among Black cisgender and transgender women. Embodying Sisterhood shows the consequences of excluding Black trans women from various feminist spaces and Black communities of kinship, as well as the benefits of inclusion. I analyze popular cultural representations featuring Black trans women Laverne Cox, Shea Diamond, Amiyah Scott, and Janet Mock demonstrating moments in which Black trans women are devalued and ostracized or celebrated and included by Black cis women. When Black trans women receive support from Black cis women, they have a significant chance of flourishing; and without the support of Black cis women, Black trans women will continue to disproportionately encounter state-sanctioned and intra-racial violence. This dissertation is thus invested in how Black cisgender women can— and should show up and show out for Black trans women.
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