MILWAUKEE — When Elle Halo walks into a room, it's hard to miss her. She says hello to everyone she meets.
“How you doing.”
“Hi baby, how you doing?”
That was three greetings to three separate people in the span of just a few minutes as we walked through Diverse and Resilient, an HIV testing and prevention agency Elle is a board member at.
You can't miss her either because of her incredible fashion sense. Or even her infectious laugh that can fill up a room.
All those contribute to her presence, but what really makes her special is something you can’t see right away.
"A board member here at Diverse and Resilient, I'm the inclusion health specialist for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and I'm also a Sheeba Member, and a co-organizer for the Black Growth Initiative."
She has organized marches, helped create transgender-specific support groups, and so much more.
“I want you to know that Black trans women are women. I want you to know that we are proud. That we are strong. That we are beautiful.”
According to the National LGBTQ Task Force, Black trans women face some of the highest rates of violence and discrimination. The Human Rights Campaign said 44 trans or non-gender conforming people were killed in 2020, of which the majority were Black and Latinx.
“I definitely experienced a lot of sexual harassment. I’ve been assaulted many times,” Elle said. “Even in Pride Month last weekend, one of our girls was attacked right here at the gas station at Holton and North."
The type of violence she and so many others experience is unacceptable, which is why she continues to fight by mentoring youth, speaking at the Capitol in Madison, and spearheading rallies.
Her work doesn’t go unnoticed either. Last year she was incorporated into a mural at 13th and Vliet streets in Milwaukee that features some of the most prominent activists and organizers in the city.
“I definitely feel pride and a connection to it being my image being up there with the other people that are featured," Elle said.
While putting herself out there in such a public manner can be dangerous given the violence Black trans women experience, “it’s also essentially the only tool we have to fight back," said Elle.
It's one of the reasons she loves fashion. Adorning her body with stylish clothes is a form of expression for her.
“I work hard for this body. I work hard for them coins. I work hard for the clothes. Work hard for the look, you know what I’m saying.”
No one is going to silence Elle. In fact, she is just getting started.