The Black women of Gen Z are also using their words to liberate. Consider Sage, a community-centered trans artist and activist. Her father is first-gen Afro-Cuban and her mother is white. I recently had breakfast with her in a little coffee spot in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where we talked liberation, and the protective nature of lashes.

At 21, Sage is already an iconic force, designed to be a liberator through difficulty and divine order. Like many trans women of color, her childhood was rife with trauma, displacement, and violence. Nearly everywhere was a minefield: her school and her hood. “When I was ten or eleven, white boys were throwing glass at me,” she remembered, “calling me a porch monkey, a faggot, everything.” She was physically bullied and verbally abused by her peers while unprotected and misunderstood by many adults and school administrators. Coming out as trans at school was not her choice (a student Kik-messengered a personal photo of her dressed as a girl), but her coming out to the world would be an act of providence.

“The three things that led me to do the work I do were fear, necessity to change the reality that instilled that fear in me, and [knowing] the privilege I held as a light-skinned trans girl with the tools and resources to push forward the fight for liberation,” she told me. Her activism led her into policy work, beginning with telling her powerful story (under an alias) to the Human Rights Campaign. That paved the way to working with the National Center for Transgender Equality and becoming an ambassador to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans during the Obama administration. At the time, many LGBTQ+ organizations had been operating for decades through an adult, white, gay male and lesbian veneer.

Recognizing community as “our greatest resource,” Sage founded a multimedia platform, Team Mag, that spotlights young Black and brown artists. “I want to center narratives of Black queer and trans [people] around joy, happiness, thriving, to give us the opportunity to see us reflected in those narratives that we are so often denied.” When Sage told me, “My childhood was robbed from me the minute I said I was trans,” my heart sank and my eyes dropped, but then I looked up and deep into the face of this amazing young woman full of brilliant possibilities.

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