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[UNIFIERS] Atlantis Narcisse Builds Lasting Community Support for Black Trans Women in Texas

31 Mar 2022

Through Save Our Sisters United, Narcisse serves her community now in the hope that others in the future won’t have to do what she has done.

Action is crucial when you live in a state “where your dog has more rights than you,” says Atlantis Narcisse, founder and CEO of Save Our Sisters United (S.O.S.U), a 501cw nonprofit dedicated to serving Trans POC and ethnic minority women “through self and community empowerment, while better-educating society on anti-norms, stigma, gender biases, and trauma,” according to its website. Though Texas’s laws prohibit “failure to provide food, care, or shelter” to animals, trans communities endure ongoing policies that violate fundamental human rights. 

In February of this year, Gov. Greg Abbot directed the state child welfare agency to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming care to their children. His actions police and endanger trans bodies by worsening barriers to healthcare and other social services and fostering a toxic environment that dehumanizes trans people. As the founder of S.O.S.U., Narcisse deconstructs these barriers and fears by embodying the phrase we before me. She creates networks of support that address the challenges that Trans POC and ethnic minority women most often face. According to Narcisse, “if I don’t have answers, I’ll work with you to find those answers.”

Save Our Sisters United

Narcisse creates safe spaces by and for Black trans women, a rarity among non-profits and organizations that serve those impacted by gender and race-based oppression. S.O.S.U. is led by Black trans advocates that destigmatize care to connect people with opportunities for self-empowerment. The organization’s website states that their focus is on uplifting people—as they put it, “Unity in Community.” 

“Most of the time, advocates are fighting for the same services. Come in unity equals community,” says Narcisse. To her, “coming in unity” and “community” are inseparable. She builds bridges across coalitions with this commitment to individual and collective wellbeing. 

S.O.S.U. serves those at intersecting identities, including Black trans women, Black cis women, trans women of color, and trans men of color. Intersectionality, as introduced by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, is “a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.” Narcisse’s focus on unity in the community is another example of how she employs her expertise to navigate the intersections of systemic injustice.

Unity in Community: Building Access To Empowerment

Narcisse began this journey decades ago as a housemother who held space for people who needed a comfortable, judgment-free environment for medical aid, including clinics that test for sexually transmitted infections. Today, she and her organization leverage holistic solutions that address individual and collective needs. To combat gender biases and to destigmatize trans wellness, S.O.S.U. hosts educational panels and professional workshops that expand the conversation on civil rights and community care. By connecting people with gender-affirming healthcare providers, social connections, and individual mentorship, Narcisse helps to meet the needs of trans individuals experiencing housing insecurity, HIV/AIDS, and mental health issues. This has included past pop-up shops where people experiencing housing insecurity could pick their clothes and feel empowered. Last February, S.O.S.U. provided funding for those affected by COVID and Winter Storm Uri.

Beyond emergency relief, Narcisse meets people where they are and solves the problems that prevent people from seeking and accessing community care. S.O.S.U. connects people with professional training, copayment support, and various resources that address their specific needs. She also provides individuals with financial assistance for food, rent, and bills during economic hardship. Knowing how difficult it can be for Black and brown trans people to navigate institutional bureaucracy, Narcisse is determined to ease that struggle for current and future generations.

Coalition Building

Narcisse finds purpose in her work by serving her community now in the hope that others in the future won’t have to do what she has done; her goal is to build a world in which Black trans women can be at peace without the burden of leading collective liberation. It is imperative for society to elevate the organizations led by Black trans women, trans people of color, and others from communities most impacted by systems of oppression. This is something Narcisse has worked on through coalition building—she once led a retreat that invited both cis and trans women to attend—and in realizing they shared experiences, were able to see that this united them more than their differences separated them. A key acknowledgement from that retreat? The patriarchy pits women against each other to reinforce gender-based oppression. But transparency, compassion, and action drive radical change. In Narcisse’s words, community mobilization is “your family taking care of other families.” Above all else, Narcisse offers the advice that others “be present and consistent” in community care and coalition building. 

Trans POC communities should not bear the societal burdens of navigating systemic injustice alone. Society needs to invest in the flourishing of Black trans women. As a person planted at these various intersections, Narcisse leads with solutions that share her strengths. Unifiers, according to Narcisse, are the “roots of a tree, a tree with so many branches that you can’t see where its reach ends.” To achieve total liberation, we must work towards a future led by changemakers who are rooted in good like Narcisse.

Written by Josse Gee for Youth To The People

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