The day after the tragic and brutal slaying of Summer Taylor at a Black Lives Matter event in Seattle, I shared a brief memorial of them on my Facebook page. The comments began to pile up, both positive and negative, from each side of the political aisle. The types of comments we have all (unfortunately) grown to expect in times like these, “play stupid games, win stupid prizes” and the ever ironic “all lives matter!”
Summer’s life was cut dramatically short in the early morning hours of the 4th of July. They were demonstrating along a closed portion of the I-5 freeway. A driver appears to have gone around the police barricade and drove the wrong way up a ramp and struck multiple people. The attack sent Diaz Love and Summer Taylor to the hospital.
Summer died at 24 years old.
Amongst the commentary that happened on my Facebook post, I added a quick note stating, “Hey y’all, Summer Taylor used the pronouns they/them. Please be sure and respect that in how you speak about them.” I instantly received some laugh reacts and the dog piling of negative comments flooded in. The post has been shared so many times, I was no longer dealing with my regular followers but hoards of folks wanting to dismantle the truth that Black Lives Matter.
A truth that Summer Taylor gave their life to support. A life that was stolen by an act of violence.
My mind flashed back to many of the protests and demonstrations I’ve been to over the years. I was reminded of conversations I’ve had with my friends where they’ve said things like, “today might be the day we die.” And in true gallows humor form, requested which photo we wanted used for the media. The reality of violence is not lost of those of us who protest. The truth that someone might try and run a car or unload a round into the crowd is ever present on all of our minds. When you are walking in to try and dismantle a system of violence, of course you expect violent opposition towards your calls for systemic change.
I’m certain Summer had similar conversations. Maybe, like one of my friends, had even written an Activist’s Will: the things they hope are promoted in their name in the event an act of domestic terrorism takes them out.
As awful as many of the comments were on my post, they were sickeningly expected. They were profoundly unoriginal. A chorus of “play stupid games” and “all lives matter” on endless repeat. Some people attempted to engage with reasonable discourse but to no avail. As disturbing as it was to read people endlessly justify the death of Summer, it was all too expected. We’ve all seen folks gleefully comment that they would love the opportunity to plow down protestors. People have said it in comments and plastered it on bumper stickers and t-shirts. Some of them with graphic images of stick figure cars driving into stick figure people flying through the air.
What happened to Summer and Diaz was not a cartoon. It was not humorous.
Yet, laugh reacts continued to build up on my comment asking folks not to misgender Summer in the comments. Many people graciously apologized and went back to edit their comments. I’m sure there were a lot of people who never saw what I said. It even began some very positive conversations about trans and non-binary issues. And then someone said, “...shouldn’t the injustice be focused on here?”
Basically what this comment was saying is, “I’m willing to stand up against Summer’s death but not for who Summer was.” This commenter wanted to separate who Summer is from what happened to them. The concept of respecting Summer’s identity was a bridge too far, even for some progressives, the work of learning to properly gender someone and use their correct pronouns was more work than they were willing to do. It wasn’t as easy as just changing a profile photo filter. It required rethinking a position and called the question on their own self proclaimed progressiveness.
In other words, it was harder work.
I rarely see the folks who scream “ALL LIVES MATTER” apply that ideology into their own lives. There are many lives that do not seem to matter much to them: those they deem criminals, the uninsured, immigrant children in cages, LGBTQ+ people, and people of color. Those lives seem to matter very little to those who claim that all life is sacred. In direct opposition, I’ve never seen all life more beautifully embraced than while standing in solidarity at a Black Lives Matter event. I see people from all walks of life, every age, race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity, is beautifully present and represented.
From the beginning the struggle of trans and non-binary people has been linked with the struggle of Black Lives Matter. A kindred symmetry between groups of people who have faced tremendous othering, police and medical violence, these groups met at the intersection of injustice and linked arms to march against their systemic oppression.
Ignoring or intentionally misgendering Summer Taylor and Diaz Love is violence. It is the type of cruelty and kindling that has been thrown on the raging blaze of hatred that empowers people to drive into crowds. By misgendering Summer in their death you are most certainly disregarding their wishes and trampling on their last will and testament as an activist.
Summer died as they proclaimed, “Black Lives Matter!” But that truth also acknowledged that non-binary life matters. That their life mattered. That the oppression of one means the oppression of all.
Say THEIR name: Summer Taylor
Use THEIR pronouns: they/them
Proclaim THEIR truth: Black Lives Matter
In solidarity with THEM ✊
Rest in Power, Summer. We will see this to the end.
Nathan Monk’s new book, Charity Means Love, addresses many of our cultural blind spots in how we give. Order your copy today!