‘But…I Survived’ Beautifully Pays Homage to Trans Women Gone and Still Here

By Kellee Terrell Nov 20, 2020

Horribly, 2020 is the most violent year for transgender people, as 37 trans or gender non-forming people have been fatally shot or killed in violent attacks, while a majority of those murdered have been Black and Latinx trans women, according to the Human Rights Campaign. For National Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20), NMAC (formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council), launched a new powerful campaign to raise awareness about this epidemic of violence.

The moving four-minute video, "But…I Survived," stars Black trans women and performers Peppermint, Mila Jam, and Deja “The Lady Deja Davenport” Smith, who beautifully portray the everyday obstacles and emotions trans women face. With Sia’s hit song “Alive” in the background, the actresses convey fear, anxiety and sadness. But the campaign also reminds us of the strength of this community.

Most importantly, "But…I Survived," offers a message of hope—hope for a future where trans women thrive in safety. “I see how these women have to carry the weight of their fallen sisters around with them daily, knowing that they were senselessly murdered for being brave enough to be who they truly are, yet continue to make positive changes rather than hide,” said John Alix, who served as the director and choreographer of the project, in a statement. 

“As we see trans women only begin to be respected and upheld in mainstream culture, we must remember those who helped pave the way just by being themselves, and paid the ultimate price,” Alix continued.

"The video either directly or indirectly addresses the lives of Trans People of Color, who are still today affected by an incredible amount of grief. It truly is life imitating art. And as heavy as this is on my heart, being able to gather with friends and fellow artists to create this meaningful video feels wonderful,” stressed Peppermint, who is a Broadway actress and ninth season contestant of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Ms. Jam added: “For me, this project is about never giving up on yourself. It’s extremely hard for Trans folk, especially Trans women of color, to find safe spaces and support. We must be protected and respected."

Lady Deja Davenport echoed the same: “The message of this video is important because we’re at a point in history where many violent attacks and murders of Trans people, specifically Trans women of color, are unreported or unsolved,” said Smith. “Studies show that 80% of Americans have never met a Trans person, however, our government passes sweeping legislation that affects the lived experiences of Trans people. With our civil rights and livelihoods on the line, we need to spread the message that Trans people have always been here. Our experiences are valid and we will not be erased."

"It’s also about sisterhood," Ms. Jam affirmed. "I don’t know where I would be without my sisters. They keep me sane, grounded and filled with love. This message is so important now because more than ever, Trans women are actually thriving. Even though we are still being murdered at extremely high rates, we are letting our presence be known. We are fighting for our happiness. We must celebrate our resilience. And you don’t have to be Trans to feel the message. This is for everyone who has been pushed aside. We are alive."