By Aurea Bolaños Perea, President’s Assistant Intern
Transgender: an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. People under this umbrella may describe themselves using one or more terms (trans, transgender man or transgender woman). Transgender identity is not dependent upon medical procedures.
Many of us have heard about transgender persons from entertainment and media – actress Laverne Cox, transgender activist Janet Mock, olympians Caitlyn Jenner and Balian Buschbaum, and Cher’s son Chaz Bono – but the media hasn’t spent enough time on the grievances, hate, and violence the trans community has suffered in the past decades.
From 2013 to 2015, there were 53 known transgender victims of hate crimes in the United States. From those 53, 46 were transgender people of color. 39 of the 46 were African American, and 6 of the 46 were Latino/a (HRC). In 2015 alone, at least 21 transgender people in the United States have been victims of fatal violence – the most transgender homicides recorded in any other year.
Now we must ask ourselves, what is the root of this violence?
As I’ve worked alongside Lambda Alliances throughout the UC’s in California, volunteered in LGBTQ+ centers in my community and stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, I come to realize that it is going to take more than workshops to educate the community to respect members of the LGBTQ+ community – what we need is our nation to come together and cease all hate towards fellows who choose to be identified as any sexual orientation and gender they see fit.
What do hate and bias lead to? Violence.
During an interview with US Weekly, Laverne Cox said:
“Violence against trans women has gone up 13% since last year’s report. In so many ways, it’s a wonderful time [for the LGBT community], but in so many ways we are still deeply challenged to protect the lives of all LGBT people, particularly trans women of color.”
Exactly as Cox said, trans women of color are being targeted and killed and the nation is not spending enough time and resources in stopping these hate crimes – because that’s what they are – hate crimes. According to the FBI, there were 1,461 victims who documented a hate-crime based on sexual orientation. Of those 1,461,
- 60.9% were victims of crimes motivated by anti-gay (male) bias
- 22.5% were victims of anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (mixed group) bias
- 13.1% were victims of anti-lesbian bias
- 1.8% were victims of anti-bisexual bias
In other words, 100% of these crimes are based on hateful bias against the LGBTQ+ community, but how far have we come to protect this community?
- Papi Edwards (20): Black transgender woman from Louisville, KY, fatally shot January 9th by 20 year old Henry Richard Gleaves who became mad when Edwards told Gleaves she was transgender.
- Lamia Beard (30): Black transgender woman from Norfolk, VA, fatally shot January 17th in a nearby shooting. No one has been arrested.
- Ty Underwood (24): Black transgender woman from Tyler, TX, fatally shot January 26th. Carlton Champion (21) whom Underwood had a brief relationship with was arrested for her murder. Ty was driving away from Champion when he shot her and her car hit a telephone pole. She had recently been accepted to nursing school.
- Yazmin Vash Payne (33): Black transgender woman from Los Angeles, CA was found fatally stabbed January 31st when firefighters responded to a fire in her apartment. Payne had just moved in with her boyfriend Ezekiel Dear and apparently they had been fighting the night before her murder. Three days after, Dear turned himself into the police and confessed to the crime.
- Taja Gabrielle DeJesus (33): Latina transgender woman from San Francisco, CA was fatally stabbed February 1st. Her body was found in a stairwell – her suspected killer, James Haynes, committed suicide. DeJesus was an active member at her church, volunteered at her local food pantry, and was an advocate with the local transgender community.
- Penny Proud (21): Black transgender woman from New Orleans, LO, who was fatally shot February 10th. No one has been arrested.
- Kristina Gomez Reinwald (46): Latina transgender woman from Miami, FL was fatally stabbed February 15th. At first, police had ruled her death a suicide. No one has been arrested, although friends of Reinwald’s say her ex-boyfriend was the killer.
- Keyshia Blige (33): Black transgender woman from Aurora, ILL was fatally shot in March while driving. Her death wasn’t known until August. No one has been arrested for her death.
- London Kiki Chanel (21): Black transgender woman from Philadelphia who was fatally stabbed May 18th by her roommates boyfriend. Her body was found in front of an abandoned house. The boyfriend confessed to the crime and has been charged with murder.
- Mercedes Williamson (17): White transgender woman found fatally stabbed June 2nd in George County, ALA. She went missing May 30th – her body was found two days later in a shallow grave in a field behind a house owned by Bobby Vallum. Bobby Vallum’s son, Josh Brandon Vallum (28), confessed to his father he had hid a body in the field behind their home. Josh Vallum has been charged with Williamson’s murder.
- Jasmine Collins (32): Black transgender woman from Kansas City, MO was fatally stabbed June 23rd. Police arrested Tia Townsel for second-degree murder.
- Ashton O’Hara (25): Black transgender and genderfluid person from Detroit was fatally stabbed and run over July 14th. O’Hara’s body was found in Detroit’s Palmer Park – infamous for numerous instances of anti-LGBT violence, most recently, Amber Monroe’s murder. Larry B. Gaulding has been charged with first-degree murder.
- India Clarke (25): Black transgender woman from Tampa, FLA, fatally beaten and shot July 21st.The alleged assailant, Keith Gaillard, who seemed to have had a “personal relationship” with Clarke, was also accused of killing a gay man a week later. Gaillard has been arrested for both murders.
- K.C.Haggard (66): White transgender woman from Fresno, CA, fatally stabbed July 23rd. Haggard was walking down the street when an SUV approached her and the driver stabbed her in the throat. The murder was caught in camera – it also showed that multiple people walked by and didn’t help her. No one has been arrested.
- Shade Schuler (22): Black transgender woman from Dallas, TX, found badly decomposed with a gunshot wound. No one has been arrested.
- Amber Monroe (20): Black transgender woman from Detroit was fatally shot August 8th. Like Ashton O’Hara, Monroe was also found at the Palmer Park neighborhood. Police say that Monroe was engaging in sexual work when she was killed.
- Kandis Capri (35): Black transgender woman from Phoenix, AZ was fatally shot August 11th in front of an apartment complex. No suspects have been found.
- Elisha Walker (20): Black transgender woman from Salisbury, NC found dead from blunt force trauma August 13th. Walker’s family had reported her missing last November and police later found her car abandoned and burned a few weeks after she had been missing. Her body was found badly decomposed in a grave behind a house a few counties away. Angel Arias, who was dating Walker, was identified as a suspect and later charged with murder and vehicle theft.
- Tamara Dominguez (36): Latina transgender woman from Kansas City, MO was killed when she was hit by a car and run over repeatedly on August 15th. Police have not arrested anyone. For Dominguez’s funeral, her family disrespected her at her funeral by addressing her as male and burying her in male clothing.
- Keisha Jenkins (22): Black transgender woman from Philadelphia fatally shot on October 6th. She was beaten by a group of young men and shot twice. Police arrested Pedro Redding, who later confessed to planning the robbery and to have targeted Jenkins because she was known to engage in sexual work and most likely would be carrying money on her.
- Zella Ziona (21): Transgender woman of color from Gaithersburg, MD was fatally shot on October 15th during an argument near a shopping center. Police charged Rico Hector LeBlond (20) with first-degree murder. Ziona was last seen carrying flowers to lay on her grandmother’s grave.
What do you feel?
As I read the stories of each of these women and I felt disgusted. I thought “there has to be justice for these murders” – but there hasn’t been. In 2013, at least 19 trans persons were killed, and in 2014, at least 13 – and those are only the victims we know of. All of these members of our community were either shot, stabbed, burnt, beaten, run over and strangled. Many other crimes have gone unresolved. And have we heard about any of these crimes? Probably not.
This is why from November 14 – 20, NOW, along with many allies, want to raise awareness during Transgender Awareness Week and offer visibility to address the issues that the Trans community has faced for decades.
Become an ally for those who may not have experienced the same struggles as you and may not have had the same privileges as you. The members of the trans community have gone above and beyond to become comfortable with their bodies and most importantly, their identity.
It is not just or proper for anyone to condemn them from the liberty to be free and happy being whoever they choose to be.