Elle Hearns

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Elle Hearns
Elle Hearns on Telesum.jpg
Hearns interviewed on Telesur in 2015
Born1986/1987 (age 32–33)[1]
Alma materCentral State University
OccupationOrganizer • speaker • writer

Elle Hearns (born 1986/1987) is an American transgender rights activist. She co-founded the Black Lives Matter Global Network, where she served as a strategic partner and organizing coordinator, and founded The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, where she serves as executive director.[1][2][3]

Early life and education

Hearns was born in Columbus, Ohio.[1] She grew up in a single-parent home with two sisters. She struggled being raised as a "little black boy who was existentially trapped in a boy’s body, but was definitely very much so female."[4] Before discovering that she was transgender, she thought she was gay, and dealt with suicidal thoughts as she thought being gay was a sin.[4]

Hearns was very interested in black power, and educated herself about Malcolm X and the civil rights movement.[4] She became a youth organizer, and later attended Central State University, a historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio.[1]


In 2013, Hearns co-founded the Black Lives Matter Global Network.[1] As a strategic partner and organizing coordinator, she helped develop policy for the network, including the 2016 policy platform "A Vision for Black Lives".[1][2][3] She co-organized a National Day of Action in 2015 to bring attention to the black trans women who were killed that year.[5]

In 2015, Hearns was one of the organizers of The Movement for Black Lives, a national three-day conference in Cleveland, Ohio.[6][7]

Hearns founded The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, where she serves as Executive Director.[2] The mission of the institute, which is set to launch in Spring 2018, is to train and support black trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes.[8][9]

Hearns has also served as a coordinator for GetEQUAL and as an ambassador for the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC).[2] Her writings have been featured in publications including the City University of New York Law Review and Ebony.[10][11]


In 2015, Hearns appeared on Democracy Now! and All Things Considered, discussing the shooting of Tamir Rice.[12][13]

In February 2017, Hearns, along with other trans activists, criticized the pussyhat that had become a symbol of the 2017 Women's March, stating that the movement needs to be truly intersectional and consider the "anatomy of all people".[14]

In August 2017, Hearns and fellow organizers at the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, along with other trans activists, spoke out against an episode of The Breakfast Club radio show where remarks were made about trans women. Comedian Lil Duval joked about killing a sex partner if she turned out to be transgender, and host Charlamagne Tha God, while noting that killing a trans person was a hate crime, stated that women not disclosing their trans status were "taking away a person's power of choice" and "should go to jail or something". Hearns and her colleagues circulated a petition calling for the program to be taken off the air.[15][16]

On September 30 2017, Hearns spoke at The March for Black Women in Washington, D.C. about the sisterhood between transgender and cisgender black women.[17]

Honors and recognition

Personal life

Hearns moved to the Washington D.C. area in 2014. She now splits her time between D.C. and New York City.[21][22]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Morrison, Aaron (October 2, 2017). "For Elle Hearns, the fight against transphobia starts with dismantling white supremacy". Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d "YWA 2017 Finalists: Advocacy & Organizing". Women's Information Network. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Dalton, Deron (February 26, 2016). "The women of Black Lives Matter outline their path forward". The Daily Dot. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Dalton, Deron (October 11, 2015). "How 4 Black Lives Matter activists handle queerness and trans issues". The Daily Dot. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  5. ^ Talusan, Meredith (August 26, 2015). "Black Lives Matter Calls Attention To Killed Black Trans Women On National Day of Action". BuzzFeed. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  6. ^ Marusic, Kristina (July 27, 2015). "Meet One Activist Helping To 'Shine A Spotlight' On Trans Issues At Movement For Black Lives Conference". Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  7. ^ Gillipsie, Mark (July 26, 2015). "Conference unites black activists; focuses on transgender lives". LGBTQ Nation. Associated Press. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  8. ^ Conteh, Mankaprr (August 2, 2017). "Dear Cis People: It's Time To Turn To Black Trans Leadership". Essence. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  9. ^ "Marsha P. Johnson Institute". Marsha P. Johnson Institute. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  10. ^ Shah, Purvi; Battle, Colette Pichon; Warren, Vincent; Garza, Alicia; Hearns, Elle (2015). "RadTalks: What Could Be Possible if the Law Really Stood for Black Lives?". CUNY Law Review. 19 (1).
  11. ^ Hearns, Elle (June 2, 2015). "Support Caitlyn AND Laverne AND Cece: What You Must Know About Black Trans Women". Ebony. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  12. ^ "Shows featuring Elle Hearns". Democracy Now!. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  13. ^ "Activist Says Tamir Rice Grand Jury Decision 'Devastating' For Family". NPR. December 28, 2015. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  14. ^ Compton, Julie (February 7, 2017). "Pink 'Pussyhat' Creator Addresses Criticism Over Name". NBC News. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  15. ^ Eligon, John (August 6, 2017). "Transgender African-Americans' Open Wound: 'We're Considered a Joke'". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  16. ^ Starr, Terrell Jermaine (August 1, 2017). "Trans Black Women Are Petitioning Charlamagne tha God Over Transphobic Comments on Show". The Root. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  17. ^ "Elle Hearns - fighting to end white supremacy". October 8, 2017. Retrieved October 8, 2017 – via Facebook.
  18. ^ Williams, Lauren N.; Arceneaux, Michael; Robertson, Regina R.; Sykes, Tanisha A.; De Luca, Vanessa K.; Christian, Tanya A. (April 18, 2017). "ESSENCE Presents 'Woke 100 Women'". Essence. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  19. ^ Phillips, Carmen (September 20, 2017). "Black LGBT Women Represent on The Root's 100 Most Influential People List". Autostraddle. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  20. ^ "The Root 100 Most Influential African Americans 2017". The Root. 2017. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  21. ^ Thomas, Raymond. "Meet Elle Hearns". Swerv Magazine. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  22. ^ "About". Official Website of Elle Hearns. Retrieved October 3, 2017.

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