Preston’s birthday cake | Photo: Instagram @ashleemariepreston
Transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston recently celebrated her 34th birthday on 7 June. Like most birthdays, she had a cake to commemorate the day — with photos of 77 black trans women who were murdered before 35 on it.
The life expectancy of trans people in the Americas is 35-years-old. That is just one year older than Preston’s current age.
Preston commissioned Cake and Art to make a cake showcasing this disturbing fact. She also launched the campaign #ThriveOver35 to raise awareness.
The cake reads: ‘Today I turned 34. Statistically, I won’t live over 35. Black trans women will no longer accept this.’
Preston thanked everyone for the birthday wishes in her post. Then she introduced her new campaign.
‘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!!’
An increasing amount of violence
One cause of death contributing to the statistic of trans life expectancy is murder.
Already in 2018, 12 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed by other violent means in the United States.
Police found the first known transgender person killed on 5 January. They found Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien dead in her Massachusetts home.
This continues the trend of LGBTI violence in the country.
2017 was the deadliest year on record in the US for LGBTI people. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs counted 52 anti-LGBTI homicides, which was an 86% increase from 2016.
Making society pay attention
Preston, who was the first trans person to run for California State Assembly before dropping out of the race, researched all the women on her cake.
She used Mic’s database of transgender homicides in America.
More than anything else, Preston wanted to make people more aware.
‘What tends to happen in the LGBTQ community is that everything pertaining to the G part supersedes everything else,’ she told HuffPost.
‘I decided to have a cake made with 77 photos of trans women under 35 who have lost their lives to transphobic hate because wedding cakes get more attention than black trans women in our community.’