Performer Beyoncé Black St. James Vilified, Threatened After Conference Performance
Black trans drag performer Beyoncé Black St. James has been subjected to sexual harassment, doxxing (a targeted form of cyber bullying that releases an individual’s private information to the public), and threats from white nationalists and other conservatives after speaking and performing at the All Home Homelessness System Conference in Seattle earlier this month.
St. James was invited to speak and perform at the conference by Kira Zylstra, the former director of All Home agency, to bring awareness to the struggles faced by transgender women of color, including high rates of homelessness, discrimination, and violence. She volunteered her time at the conference, which included the cultural presentation as a featured speaker as well as a burlesque performance.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2018’s hate crimes data found that there has been a 34% increase in hate-based attacks on trans people between 2017 and 2018.
“Drag is an art of resistance and survival for the queer and trans community,” explained United Territories of Pacific Islander Alliance (U.T.O.P.I.A.) in the organization’s open letter to King County Leaders. “It highlights our resilience and celebrates our bodies amidst the hate and violence we face. For so many of us who face employment and housing discrimination, this art is often connected to our livelihood. We use this art to celebrate our bodies that are often seen as immoral by those who continue to police our expressions. This art allows [us] to control our queer and trans narratives and reclaim our power.”
Some media outlets have criticized St. James’ performance at the conference while publicly “outing” her — sharing her gender identity without confirmation or permission — and putting her at considerable risk. Many news stories regarding the incident focus on St. James’ gender identity and race, ignoring her achievements and her powerful story of overcoming struggles in the face of unyielding oppression. This is a common tactic rooted in “transmisogynoir,” or the intersections of transphobia, anti-Blackness, and sexism, uniquely faced by Black transgender women.
This type of media coverage further perpetuates that harm, reflecting the racist trope that Black bodies are harmful and dangerous to white communities. Yet, it’s Black trans women who are the ones at risk.
According to Out Magazine’s 2019 Obituary Project, 23 trans women of color have been murdered in 2019 alone.
Local community organizations have been rallying in support of St. James. The Protecting Black Transfemmes Task Force, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, U.T.O.P.I.A., Lavender Rights Project, Ingersoll Gender Center, QLaw, and others have expressed outrage at the continued attack of a member of the trans community — specifically, a Black trans woman who has committed her life to fighting for the rights of others. These organizations are calling for community to support Ms. St. James through the use of the hashtag #istandwithbeyonceblackstjames.