You can’t protect Black children without protecting Black trans children

By Jasmine Banks

Imagine someone who has dedicated their life work to calling out the violence of corporal punishment in the Black community. Imagine that they, as a former foster youth, redeems their experiences with child abuse into award-winning writing and journalism. They are hailed as a child advocate whose clarion call has been sorely missing in the discourse around violence and Black childhood. Now imagine that despite all of this work, they still repeatedly reinforce violence against the children who are the most harmed by interpersonal violence.

Dr. Stacey Patton is that award-winning journalist and former foster youth turned child advocate. She is the author of Spare the Kids, an important book full of insights about how the Black community must recognize the conditions we create (and those we embrace as a product of internalized white supremacy) that lead us to choose violence against our children in the name of discipline. After Dr. Stacey Patton’s very public internet display of cisgender violence under the guise of intellectual debate around trans womanhood, one must ask: When we talk about protecting Black children, what about Black transgender children? You cannot be a child advocate and be anti-trans. Trans women were once trans girls, children, who find themselves at a much greater risk of violence and harm than cis children.

If we are talking about children and the physical violence against them, we are being irresponsible if we do not also address the beliefs and conditions we create that contribute to pathways of violence and the justification of physical harm against children.

Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s pioneering work establishing the often co-opted term “intersectionality” and the analysis therein applies here. If we think about a Black trans girl in an anti-Black white supremacist heteropatriarchal society, her multiple and interacting vulnerabilities make her a unique target for the systemic transmisogynistic violence inherent in our society. Imagine still if she were disabled, a Muslim, or an immigrant, and the many hurdles she would have to overcome just to make it to womanhood. So when talk about transgender women, we cannot do so without talking about the violence against trans girls.

Transgender children are at much higher risk for mental illness, risk of suicide, homelessness, and all the other harm that goes along with trying to survive a world bent on their destruction. The trauma symptoms of children exposed to domestic violence and corporal punishment are amplified in trans children who are already grappling with concepts of gender, identity, and personhood without the same social resources available to their cishet peers.

Their suffering is magnified and public health and the educational system do very little to prioritize their needs. Nearly 46 percent of transgender youth attempt suicide. At school and at home, transphobia and discrimination are mounted against the dignity and well-being of trans children, resulting in a lack of safe spaces. These realities make our conversations around trans identity all the more pressing and in need of deep accountability.

Conversations like those Dr. Stacey Patton claimed to “start” about trans women contribute to conditions where one may feel justified in physical harm toward a trans child. By putting trans women’s personhood up for debate, Patton contributes to transphobia and that leads to violence against Black trans people and, without a doubt, Black trans children.

Often we are building pathways to violence toward children without recognizing that we are doing so. If we are truly heeding Patton’s call to Spare the Kids, we must include transgender children and do better to navigate conversations where the difference between life and death for trans folks is in the worlds that we build with our words.

Jasmine Banks is a Black queer feminist living in Arkansas. She is a licensed mental health professional, maternal mental health activist, and national digital campaigner for NARAL Pro-Choice America. Twitter: @djazzo

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  1. I’m concerned about the lack of scholarship you display in an essay that is presented in such an inflammatory manner. Perhaps, as you say, Stacey Patton does allow the personhood of transpeople to come into question, however it would be completely irresponsible for you to infer that from the screenshot you’ve shared here. Where is your evidence? Your essay is the intellectual equivalent of me answering “Thursday”, if you asked me the question, “What time is it?” Sure it is in fact Thursday but that has nothing to do with a question about the time of day. So while the statistics you cite here about transpeople all sound completely true, they have nothing to do with the excerpt from the article that you posted in the screenshot. You have taken a gargantuan leap by suggesting that a writer (NOT Patton) who asserts that there is a difference between the lived experiences of transwomen and ciswomen is transphobic. Thatleap is further amplified by suggesting that another writer (Patton) who posts that excerpt from an essay, without even offering any personal commentary, is transphobic as well. The other concept referenced in the excerpt you show in the screenshot is the idea of constructing safe spaces for certain populations and subsets of populations. This is widely accepted as a legitimate response to trauma. Does your critique of the writer’s essay extend to that concept as well? I do not know Patton personally but there is nothing you’ve written in your essay that suggests that she is excluding transgender children from her call to action against child spanking/”whupping”. The plight of trans children is a sad and vexing one. Without compelling evidence, I would hesitate to post someone’s photo online and to link that person to the meanness and horror of not protecting black trans children’s lives.

    • Very well written response. I absolutely agree. I don’t infer transphuhhobia from her excerpt. I happen to know Stacey personally and she is not the person you are attempting to describe. I know she believes that all children should not be aggressed upon. Id like to know what other info you have to support this argument.

      Additionally, this is a conversation that should be had. It doesn’t mean your transphobic to acknowledge the differences that lie btw cisgender and transwoman.

    • So well said! Yes!

    • She denies in the root of her argument that Trans are Women. The same thing was said before and still today that black people aren’t people… That very incorrect “logic” is destructive to everyone. Regardless of how scholarly the author of this article presented their argument the meat of it strong. The fact that you went after the presentation as your first rebuttal shows that your argument was lacking. Those hide up inside ivory towers doomed to fall.

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I was so upset and disturbed by Stacey’s post, and her subsequent defensive, rallying-the-troops-around-her response to the critique. She went through and meticulously unfriended anyone who questioned her post, or spoke up about trans rights. Coming from someone who has such a powerful, important voice, I found her post to be incredibly destructive to a group that has been marginalized and abused to an extreme for all of human history. To tell trans women and girls that they are a threat, and have no place at our table is TOXIC FEMININITY, and downright shitty. So thank you for speaking up.

    • She didn’t go through unfriending anyone who came with critique, she just didn’t answer most folks, and she removed people who could not engage in discussion without hurling insults. I do that on my page. Most people do that one their page. When did she tell trans women and girls that they are a threat and have no place at the table?
      From what I recall on that post, she never stated her opinion one way or the other.

    • How was she being destructive?

      Where did she say that trans women and children are a threat and have no place at the table?

      How did you get to that place?

      She blocked people who were being abusive, but didn’t block them until they got it out of their system, AND she didn’t reply to said abusive comments.

      How can you classify someone who posted an controversial article, to begin a dialogue around this issue, as damaging?

      I’m so confused.

      I’m sure you will not take the time to defend your accusations here, but I think I’m expecting that.


    • You do realize that Dr. Patton did NOT write the blog but instead shared it as a post on her page? It’s intent as I understood it was to generate a dialog between all stakeholders. Instead it was hijacked and turned into something ugly and destructive.

    • That literally never happened. Reach a little further.

  3. Wow you are really stretching with this piece. I didn’t see where she mentioned ANY children and to make it about children to tie in with her advocacy of them is irresponsible and flat out WRONG. The REALITY is that cis women and trans women DO have different experiences and like trans women should have our space. Further she makes no distinction between black children. YOU did that.

  4. Sister, be on alert. Stacey Patton has alerted her followers aka “goon squad” about your piece and posted It her FB page and the natives are angry! They do not take kindly to anyone criticizing their beloved “Staceypants” and they take her EVERY word as gospel. They are close minded and cult like in their adoration of Dr. Patton and she can do NO wrong in their eyes, whether she is right or dead wrong. Wait for it sister, wait for it!

  5. I’m confused. Did Ms. Patton quote from this piece or write it? BC I was under the impression its author was one Olivia Broustra. I tweeted her about it, and she responded as if she was the author. Some of the locker room claims etc from the piece seem like real BS. Millennial men seem insecure with locker room nudity, and this piece suggests transwomen just love shocking cis women with full nudity like a John Waters film. Anyhow, that point of clarity regarding the authorship would be helpful here. Thanks.

  6. I am truly confused by this article. I am a CIS woman who has many different types of people in my life and yes many of them are trans men and women. Before I commented I spoke with a few to get some perspective and they all agreed that while their experiences might overlap with CIS women’s there are very concrete and distinct differences. As an ally I am not only not invited or welcomed into some of the spaces that are for them alone I don’t want to be there. There are things about their life experiences that I cannot understand no matter how much I empathize, how is my life experiences as a woman not the same? How is my need for a space where my life experience is shared somehow excluding someone else?
    I understand the dangers that my trans brothers and sisters face every single day. If I too am subject to trauma am I not allowed to have support? If I need such does that now make me “anti” ?
    It seems that you read exclusion into this piece because either you are so accustomed to it that you expect it, or that you wanted it to be that because it pushes your agenda. Either case you caused harm and hurt to both trans women and CIS, and that is a problem.

  7. Thank you for posting this.

    Stacey Patton has been a wolf in sheep’s clothing for a while now, using her advocacy for some children to snipe at others who don’t fit her idea of womanhood/girlhood.

    She is inherently violent in speech against tran girls, and that is fully hypocritical on her part as a child advocate.

    She needs to be put on blast from several directions from people who have strong platforms. She ignores and belittles the ordinary people who try to let her know she is going on the wrong direction.

  8. I do not see Dr Patton not being concerned about the safety of trans children but others clearly do. My only concern is with her expressed need to draw a distinction between trans and cis women. I do not believe it is a good thing to draw lines between people in a given group, irrespective of how they came to membership in that group. An analogy would be the fact that it would be questionable to draw lines of distinction between natural born American citizens and naturalized citizens. We are all citizens with the same rights and concerns. Even the natural born requirement for becoming President does not apply in the context of the issues related to trans and cis woman. Once a person is a woman, their concerns and issues should not be contingent on how they came to the status of womanhood. I can see how some can see an assault on or a diminution of their need to be safe, once there is a call to consider as separate the issue of those who came to womanhood at birth and without having to transition into womanhood. There is an implied privileging of cis womanhood and a marginalization of trans women in such a call even if unintended.

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