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Ashlee Marie Preston shares powerful milestone as she beats the terrifyingly short life expectancy of a Black trans woman

Emma Powys Maurice June 9, 2020
Ashlee Marie Preston

Ashlee Marie Preston at a New York Gala for The Trevor Project in 2019 (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty)

For most people their 36th birthday is just like any other birthday. For Black trans women, it is so much more.

When the transgender journalist and activist Ashlee Marie Preston turned 36 on June 8, it meant that she had beaten the odds stacked against her: she had exceeded the average life expectancy of a Black trans woman in the US.

While the average cisgender American woman lives to be 80, trans women face a markedly shorter lifespan due to systemic problems like homelessness, unemployment and lack of access to healthcare, all of which make them more susceptible to violence and poor health.

Further statistics show that a shocking 50 per cent of trans people have been raped or sexually assaulted, and 41 per cent of trans people have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

The situation is even worse for trans women of colour, who face the unfortunate intersection of racism and homophobia — something Preston understands only too well.

“I laid in my bed in tears last night. The estimated life expectancy of a Black trans woman is only 35 years old. I’m 36 today,” she wrote in an emotional tweet.

“I’m more than a statistic, and so are my sisters. Everyday we fight for racial and gender justice, is another day we stand the chance of beating the odds.”

Preston, who was the first trans person to run for state office in California, has long called attention to the tragically low life expectancy of her Black trans community.

In 2018 she used her 34th birthday to launch the #ThriveOver35 campaign to help Black trans women reimagine themselves “somewhere other than an open casket”.

In reference to the fact that “wedding cakes get more attention than Black trans women in our community”, she commissioned a birthday cake to memorialise 77 black trans women who had been murdered under the age of 35.

At the centre of the cake read the words: “Today I turned 34, statistically I won’t live over 35. Black trans women will no longer accept this.”

“I figured if I put the message on a cake, maybe it would be easier for society to digest ― no pun intended,” she told The Huffington Post.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Thank you for all the birthday wishes! 🙏🏾 Today I turned 34! ❤️ Sadly the average life expectancy for a black trans woman in America is 35 years old…I had @cakeandart place the photos of 77 black trans women who were murdered under 35 years old on my cake. I’m rolling out the #ThriveOver35 campaign today which is intended to help black trans women reimagine themselves somewhere other than an open casket. Please use this hashtag for every birthday under and over 35 years old to remind our sisters brothers and others that we’re not only surviving we’re THRIVING!! ✊🏾✨💫 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #Thrive #live #birthday #happybirthday #happybirthdaytome #celebrate #blacktranslivesmatter #blacktranswomen #women #trans #lgbtq #lgbt #masterpiece #queer #facts #statistics #picoftheday #bestoftheday #instagram #instadaily #daily #instagood #media #losangeles #LA #campaign #blacklivesmatter #blm #pride

A post shared by Ashlee Marie Preston (@ashleemariepreston) on

More: ashlee marie preston, black trans women, Trans life expectancy

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