Moving from Despair to Joy: Reclaiming Pride as a Black Trans Disabled Person

Black Trans Fund
4 min readJul 19, 2023
A light-skinned Black trans man in a black shirt and tan shorts, sitting in a wheelchair on a deck outside.
Rainier Mailes, Program Associate for the Black Trans Fund

I know it’s July, but pride ain’t over yet y’all!

Wait, where are my manners? Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rainier, and I am the Program Associate at Black Trans Fund (BTF). I’m unapologetically Black, openly trans, and proudly disabled. I love puzzles, board games, and kites. I bring my #BlackBoiJoy and magic into all spaces I inhabit and try to implement a sense of play in every interaction.

Before BTF, I was an Executive Function Consultant helping folks find tools and techniques to manage the moving pieces of their lives. In fact, it was one of my clients that encouraged me to apply for this position at BTF.

The job description explicitly mentioned joy, which was a first for me. While I figured that I didn’t have the skills or qualifications for the job, the gentle nudges that clients and family gave me were enough for me to apply.. The care and consideration that was given to me during the interview process, spoke directly to my soul. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Being new to philanthropy, I knew there would be a learning curve as I had never been a part of the full grantmaking process, nor had I any experience talking to funders.

The transition ended up being smooth and enjoyable. I’m lucky that being disabled has allowed me to hone my skill of adaptability. I was able to learn quickly, pivot when necessary, and I had the freedom to ask as many questions as I wanted. I was brought on to the team in January, but it feels like I’ve been here since the beginning, as I was welcomed in with open arms.

As the Program Associate, I hold the admin portion of operations. I schedule, I manage time, and I plan. They don’t call me “Captain Plan-It” for no reason.

While I’m #QueerAllYear, last month, I celebrated my queerness and transness with my community. This month is no different because July is Disability Pride Month.

I recognize that for some, the term “proudly disabled” doesn’t sit well, and I get it. Like an old-school Facebook relationship status, it’s ‘’complicated.” I have been fortunate to find pride in my identity, and that feat alone wasn’t easy. I’m an albino, I’m genderqueer, sometimes I use a white cane, I’m an ambulatory wheelchair user, and I’m neurodiverse. All that to say, the complexity of intersectionality and identity is not lost on me.

The biggest struggle for me on the road to pride had always been, “Am I enough? Am I Black enough, am I trans enough, am I disabled enough?” When I was younger, these things didn’t matter as much. The dividing line didn’t exist. However, as I got older, that line became more prominent and defined. I obsessed over “proving” that I was Black, trans, and disabled. I exaggerated how I spoke, changed my clothes, and used my white cane more. If I thought it would make me “enough,” I did it.

A light-skinned Black trans man in a tan hat and black shirt kneeling to his partner wearing a purple shirt and peach hat, appearing to propose at Disney World.
Rainier shares his #blackboijoy with his partner at Disney World.

My story doesn’t have a hero. No one swooped in and showed me how to love myself. Life happened, the secondary characters in my story changed, and eventually, I felt comfortable enough to stop having to prove myself. I know that seems anticlimactic, but that’s what happened. I’m not even truly sure when it happened, but that shift was what began my trajectory toward pride.

I began to lean into all the things that made me feel like I wasn’t enough. Lack of melanin? No problem, it just means my magic is golden. Genderqueer? That’s right, no normative gender here. I don’t use my cane or chair all the time? Awesome, I have tools for when I need them! I acknowledge that I made this reframing of myself and my identity sound easy, but it wasn’t and still isn’t. I also know that everyone’s journey is different. Really what I’m saying is this:

When you have the privilege to stop worrying about how others see you and instead just be, it’s a liberating thing.

Access to that privilege is one of the things that BTF is trying to fund. We want our Black trans kin to feel free. Free to experience joy, especially those who are disabled. We live in a time where being disabled is synonymous with despair and we are seemingly not allowed to feel joy. Let’s change that. Let’s show the community, the world at large that, yes, we are disabled, and yes, we are happy and do experience joy.

We are constantly looking for and creating ways to hold our community, and have been deeply thinking about how to elevate our kin who are Black, trans, and disabled. Consider this a first step. You are enough and BTF sees you, even when you don’t see yourself. We will always see you, fight for you, and elevate you.

This isn’t the last time that you’ll hear from me; know that I am proud of you. We are proud of you and we celebrate you during Disability Pride Month.

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Black Trans Fund

Supporting and uplifting Black trans joy and liberation for our communities. Stories by BTF staff and allies.