Shon Faye pays tribute to murdered trans woman after receiving abuse online

Sunday 20 May 2018 14:30
news
Picture:(Twitter)

Trans writer and comedian Shon Faye has responded has used her involvement at Amnesty UK's 'Women Making History' Festival to pay tribute to Naomi Hersi.

Hersi, a 31-year-old black trans woman, was stabbed to death in a London hotel room in March.

Faye's tribute to her - and other trans activists who have lost their lives around the globe - came as a part of her role as host of event in Shoreditch on Sunday, May 20.

However, her positioning as a host saw Faye fall subject to a campaign to remove her from the event.

A petition launched on change.com called for her dismissal because of a sexually themed tweet she posted in September 2017, as well as claims that she had made anti-biological woman statements.

At the time of writing, the petition has acquired over 2,200 signatures with comments on the petition referring to her as a 'man' and a 'virulent misogynist.'

In a show of defiance, Faye took an opportunity at the festival to highlight the abuse that trans women, women and women of colour experience on a regular basis.

Her speech, which opened the festival, read in full as:

Thank you so much. It’s been – let’s say – an interesting week and I am thrilled that I am still here before you today. Over the past week, I have read some of the vilest abuse I have ever seen about myself- and it has some competition.

Most of it centres around the belief I am an impostor or have no right to be here at a festival celebrating women because I am trans.

I believe it fits into a wider culture of transphobia which is targeting my community in the UK media and online right now – a culture in which 2 in 5 trans people have experienced a hate crime in the past year, in which 45% of trans young people have attempted suicide, in which one in eight trans people have been physically attacked by a colleague or customer while at work.

Given that I was only intended to MC today, when I accepted Amnesty’s offer to host there was no intention I would be giving any kind of speech. As it is, I would instead like to dedicate the undue attention this moment has earned to the memory of a woman called Naomi Hersi.

For those of you who don’t know, Naomi Hersi was a fun loving 31 year old trans woman of Somali heritage who was stabbed to death in London in March of this year.

For several days, the British media did not report on her death and when they did they frequently used the wrong name, misgendered her or otherwise belittled the way she had lived and died – as a woman.

I remember Naomi now along with all my black and brown trans sisters and siblings across the world who are experiencing an epidemic of violence because they are trans, women and of colour.

I think of the trans woman of colour in my hometown of Bristol, so badly brutalised by Avon and Somerset Police in the hours after attempting to take her own life in 2015, the force ultimately had to pay out damages.

I think of women like Turkish activist Hande Kader – who like me was a well known and controversial trans activist in her country: but unlike me, she was a sex worker. Hande was tortured raped and set alight – there has been no justice for her murder.

 An online petition this week insisted I should not have been centred in the arena of women’s human rights. I agree.

It is trans women in sex work, disabled trans women and working class trans women who do not share my advantages who must be centred in women’s human rights work.

Instead of answering my critics I pay tribute to those women – because as long as trans women in the UK and around the world are being beaten, being sectioned,  being brutalised, being raped, being killed or surviving, thriving, living, laughing, loving,  and dying as women are then it is right and just that we are able to access the support and solidarity of feminist and women’s’ community.

Thank you.

The festival also saw speeches from Olivia Colman, Seyi Akiwowo, Indira Varma, Deborah Frances-White, Grace Victory, Emma Gannon and Rowan Ellis.

The theme of the festival was to celebrate the "power of women standing together for human rights."

More: We asked 14 trans activists how cis people can be better allies in 2018

Trending