As the title suggests, everything on this blog concerns violence against trans women.
The Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project is a trans feminist project addressing issues of systematic, institutional and interpersonal violence and oppression experienced by trans women (those who were coercively assigned male at birth and identify or are identified as women/female) across multiple identities (e.g., race, class, dis/ability, citizen-status, nationality, sexuality, age, HIV status, and form, status, or age of transition, etc.)
Ida Hammer is a writer and social justice communicator. She organizes the Trans Women's Anti-Violence Project. She presents workshops and trainings on cis privilege and being a trans ally. She's also involved in organizing against sexualized violence. She's a proud dyke-identified trans woman and an organizer of the New York City Dyke March.
Police in the Miami Beach, Fla., area are reaching out to the public to try to solve a three-month old killing of a local transgender woman. According to South Florida Gay News, Rene “Rosita” Hidalgo was found bludgeoned to death in her home March 15, after friends reported her missing to police.
Renowned drag performer Amy Rivers — a close friend of the victim who reportedly arrived on the scene with police — told Victoria Michaels of SFGN, “Somebody had the nerve to stab her, cut her neck and put something in her mouth so she wouldn’t scream. It’s not fair what they did to her. She didn’t deserve this. I loved her and everybody loved her.”
Detectives are asking area residents for any information that might lead to finding a perpetrator, confirming Hidalgo was found with multiple stab wounds but staying mum on other details of the crime pending the ongoing investigation. The Miami Beach Police Department has come under criticism recently for a press release calling Hidalgo a “transvestite who was known to have profited from sex.” (Hidalgo was actually a transgender woman, not a cross-dresser — the definition of the archaic term ‘transvestite’ — and her friends told SFGN that she was not a sex worker.)
Detective Oldy Ochoa, however, told SFGN that the case was top priority: “It’s the LGBT community that has allowed Miami Beach to thrive over the years and it’s our honorable duty to protect and serve them no matter if they are gay, lesbian, or transgender because they are all human beings. I want nothing more than to catch this criminal because I think the LGBT community deserves it for all that they have done for our city.”
According to SFGN, police have said the shootings of two other trans women in April are unrelated to Hidalgo’s killing.
(Diane Anderson-Minshall, Advocate — June 28 2012)
Friends of Brandy Martell pay their respects at a memorial Wednesday at the spot where she was killed. (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)
Oakland police are continuing to investigate the death of a transgender woman who was shot in the city’s downtown as family and friends mourn.
Brandy Martell, 37, was shot as she sat in her car with friends early Sunday morning, April 29.
Oakland police Officer B. Baker, who is working the case, said Wednesday morning, May 9 that no arrests had been made and no suspects had been identified.
The motive for Martell’s murder remains unclear, but a woman who was sitting next to Martell when the shooting started told the Bay Area Reporter this week that she suspects the reasons are hate crime and robbery.
Either way, Felisha Johnson, who had known Martell since 1995, said she wants her friend’s killer brought to justice “immediately.”
"They entered our world, and they took my sister’s life," said Johnson, 32.
Johnson said that she, Martell, who lived in Hayward, and two others were socializing in Martell’s car when two men approached around 4 a.m. One spoke with Johnson, while the other talked to Martell.
The men told them their names and where they were from. She said the men told them they were Ethiopian, but she couldn’t remember their names.
They also told Martell and Johnson to come home with them, she said.
She said the men “kept trying to touch us” and put their hands down their tops. Johnson said she swatted away the hand of the man at her window.
Johnson said she’d been drinking, and “I was pretty wasted, but it wasn’t like I was so drunk I didn’t know what was going on.” The conversation lasted about 10 minutes.
At one point, she said, she told Martell, “I don’t think they know what’s going on,” referring to their gender identity. She said that Martell said, “Let them know,” and Johnson said she replied, “‘You let them know.’”
"We kind of giggled about it," she said. "Basically, they figured it out," and she didn’t directly tell the men they were transgender.
The men’s reaction was “Nah, nah, I’m good,” and they left without any argument or saying anything anti-gay or anti-trans, said Johnson.
About half an hour after the men left, the one who’d been talking to Martell returned.
"I looked over and there was a gun in the car," said Johnson. The man demanded money, and Johnson tried to hand him her purse, but he rejected it.
"I kept my eyes on the gun," said Johnson. "I don’t remember Brandy saying anything. He just shot."
Johnson said she “took off running” down the street, screaming for others to call the police as the shots continued.
Martell drove off and made it about 50 feet to the corner of Franklin and 13th streets, said Johnson, but when she returned to the car, Martell wasn’t moving.
Oakland Police Department spokeswoman Lea Rubio said last week that police responded to the scene at 5:16 a.m. Martell was pronounced dead at the location.
Asked about the possible motive, Johnson said, “I think it was robbery and a hate crime, because all of a sudden, he wanted to come back after everything had been going on all fine and dandy.”
She indicated that she thinks if the motive had just been robbery, he wouldn’t have taken the extreme actions that he did.
"Everything you needed was right there, if you would have just taken that car," she said.Relatives of Brandy Martell’s stand outside the funeral home prior to Wednesday’s service and include, from left: Garec Bartley, Antonio Cameron, Graylin Bartley, Latrice Jones, and Genetta Bartley.
(Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)
Martell’s family planned her funeral for Wednesday, May 9 at C.P. Bannon Mortuary in Oakland. Tiffany Woods, a transgender advocate who’d worked with Martell, shared information this week that the family planned to bury Martell as a man.
The service was packed with mourners. An open casket showed Martell dressed in a dark men’s suit, although the casket was closed before the service itself started.
An alternate memorial was set for Wednesday at the site where Martell was killed, said Woods, who added that Martell’s “favorite things” would be there.
"This service is for people who don’t want to attend her actual funeral, for whatever reason," the announcement stated.
Erica Cleveland, who knew Marvell for more than 20 years, was at the memorial at 13th and Franklin Wednesday.
Cleveland chose the memorial over the funeral because Martell’s family had “disrespected” what she’d “fought so hard for all her life,” including her name, even though “they respected it while she was alive.” Cleveland said she didn’t know Martell’s family.
A cluster of flowers, heart-shaped balloons, and posters with Martell’s image were attached to a lamppost at the corner.
Johnson said that she never saw Martell as male except for pictures.
"I never met this person they’re burying her as," said Johnson, referring to her family’s decision. "I personally don’t agree with what they’re doing, but how can I tell a grieving family how to deal with their child … and how they want to put her to rest? … That would be totally disrespectful and inappropriate."
Johnson said Martell “had a really close bond with her mom and her dad. I know that for a fact. She was basically like ‘Daddy’s girl.’”
Betty Massey, Martell’s mother, said last week that Martell hadn’t legally changed her name, and she wanted police to refer to Martell as Milton Massey Jr. She declined to answer further questions.
Talishia Massey, 29, Martell’s sister, said Martell’s gender identity didn’t keep her parents from loving her.
Talishia Massey, who identifies as lesbian, said that Martell had legally changed her name at least 15 years ago. She used male pronouns when discussing Martell.
"I call him ‘Turkey,’" said Massey, referring to Martell’s nickname. "That was my brother. That’s how I grew up with him."
Last week, the authorities identified Martell as Milton Massey Jr. and media outlets, including the Bay Area Reporter , reported that fact. Sean Troiano, an Alameda County coroner’s office technician, said that the identification was made through fingerprints.
Johnson also said that Martell legally changed her name about 16 years ago, and she lived in Hayward at the time. She said Martell’s driver’s license matched her female gender identity.
Mike Marando, spokesman for the California Department of Motor Vehicles, said the agency’s records show a Brandy Martell with the same birthdate as the homicide victim.
A search of Alameda County Superior Court records did not reveal that Martell had legally changed her name. The search covered records back to 1985.
Referring to how Martell’s family has been doing since the killing, Talishia Massey, who called Martell “an uplifting person,” said, “Everybody has their moments where they break down, but for the most part everybody is holding up. You accept the will of God.”
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the homicide unit at (510) 238-3821 or the dispatch office at (510) 777-3333.
With the trial of CeCe McDonald in a Minnesota this is a timely piece on the discrimination against trans women by the courts. If trans women aren’t considered fit for jury service, how can we expect a Black trans woman to receive a fair trial by her peers?
Also, in the examples in the article there are also racialized aspect to who is removed from a potential jury because of gender identity and sexual orientation. With overt racial discrimination barred from jury selection, prosecutors have a convenient cover that allows them to target jurors of color and sympathetic Whites based on their being LGBTQ.
This cast serious doubt on the ability of trans women of color, who are situated at the intersection of racism, sexism, cissexism. These are things that need to be factored into why Black, Latina and American Indian trans women are disproportionately targeted for mass incarceration.
There is some problematic language in this article, including the conflation of homosexual/gay with transsexual/transgender and the apparent misgendering of trans women.
The following are excerpts from the article:
“I believe that people who are either transsexuals or transvestites — I don’t know what the proper term is — traditionally are more liberal-minded thinking people, tend to associate more with the defendants because, obviously, they have been either ridiculed before or are feeling in a position of being in a microscope all the time and are outcasts which lends themselves to associating more with the defendant.”
That was part of the reason a California prosecutor gave for removing Chris
topherLewis — an African-American potential juror described by the trial judge as a “man dressed as a woman” — from a jury in 2000.
It would have been illegal to remove Lewis based on the fact that she was black, so the judge had to make sure that the prosecutor could articulate a reason other than race.
“Did you excuse Chris Lewis or Christopher Lewis partly … you had
some reason to believe that this individual was a cross-dresser or transvestite?”
“Yes,” replied the prosecutor.
In 2005, a federal court upheld Lewis’ removal, observing that “no federal law” prevents attorneys from removing “cross-dressers or transvestites” from juries.
Lewis’ experience is not unique. Federal courts have consistently declined to prohibit attorneys from openly discriminating against LGBT people during jury selection. And as recently as last year, the U.S. Department of Justice told a panel of judges that it “takes no position” on whether the case law that prohibits attorneys from removing jurors based on race or sex should be extended to cover sexual orientation.
While California has since banned jury discrimination based on sexual orientation, most other states have not.
Minnesota state Sen. Scott Dibble is fighting to change that. He introduced a bill earlier this year that would add sexual orientation and marital status to the list of categories for which jurors cannot be dismissed in his state. Minnesota law currently bars discrimination in jury selection based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, economic status, or a physical or sensory disability.
Dibble, along with Minnesota LGBT rights activists, says that under Minnesota law, the bill would also protect transgender people.
"This affects peoples lives," Dibble, who represents Minneapolis, told The American Independent. "LGBT people provide important perspectives in terms of jury duty," he said.
In 2008, a Massachusetts appellate court declined to overturn a murder conviction after the defendant argued the prosecutor had “improperly used a peremptory challenge to remove a juror who may have been either homosexual or transgendered.”
At the trial, which had taken place seven years earlier, “the prosecutor attempted to challenge the juror for cause because, the prosecutor said, the juror had some ‘identification issues,’ seemed to be a man dressed as a woman, and appeared to have breasts,” according to court documents.
The defense attorney responded, “I see a man who maybe at best I would argue might be a homosexual. And if the Commonwealth’s intention is to challenge on the homosexuals․”
The appellate court explained that after the trial judge denied the challenge for cause, the prosecutor used a peremptory challenge to remove the juror.
The prosecutor disputed the defense’s suggestion that it was engaging in a “pattern” of removing gays from the jury. “I don’t even know of any even homosexuals that have been before us,” said the prosecutor. “This particular gentleman was dressed, in my opinion, like a female and he has breasts and so forth. And, frankly, I was just looking at this from a common sense point of view. This guy has a lot of identification issues.”
In denying the appeal, the appellate court observed, “To date, this court has not considered the question whether the exercise of a peremptory challenge to remove a juror because of his or her sexual orientation or because the juror was transgendered would violate the guarantees of art. 12 [of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights] or the equal protection clause [of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution]. Nor, it appears, has any other court.”
The appellate court ruled that defense counsel’s failure to formally object to the challenge during the trial and the “factual ambiguity” surrounding the incident prevented the court from deciding whether sexual orientation and gender identity could be considered in dismissing jurors. “Defense counsel appeared to object to the prosecutor’s supposed use of a peremptory challenge to remove the juror on the basis of homosexuality,” wrote the court, “while the prosecutor seemed clearly to focus on what he perceived to be the transgendered appearance of the juror.”
Thirteen years earlier, prospective juror
SteveGrandell had been dismissed from a trial in Hennepin County District Court in Minnesota. The assistant district attorney reportedly used a peremptory challenge to strike Grandell because Grandell appeared to be a man dressed as a woman. In reality, Grandell identified as transgender.
The defense attorney in the case objected to the challenge, but the judge overruled him.
Grandell told the Star Tribune at the time that [s]he thought [s]he was dismissed by the prosecution “not only because of
his[her] style but because the case that was being heard involves sexual assault between an adult and a minor.”
Transgender people, [s]he said, “are always lumped in with sexual deviants.”
He[She] told the paper, “I went to jury duty as who I am. I dressed as I always dressed. If I wouldn’t have, I would have been lying. I’d have been taking a step into the closet, and I think that’s a dark and dangerous place.”
Phil Duran of Outfront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, told TAI that the bill pending in Minnesota to outlaw jury discrimination is an important one.
"We believe nobody should be refused the opportunity to serve their community simply because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status in jury service," he said. "As numerous Court rules make clear, discrimination in any aspect of our justice system undermines the public’s confidence that a person may have their day in court where their concerns will be heard without prejudice or bias.“
When members of the media report on cis women who have changed their names—either through marriage or for some other reason—they don’t tend to say, “Jane Smith, who was born Jane Johnson.” Yet when members of the media are reporting on trans women they, as a matter of routine, almost always give the name the woman doesn’t use, saying something to the effect of: “Jane Smith, who was born John Smith.”
The difference in how cis women who have taken on new names, often by marriage, and how trans women are treated by the media is glaringly obvious. While journalist will often cite some made up journalist imperative to rationalize their use of the wrong name for trans women, the arbitrary double standards by which they report on former names are revealing.
In both cases, the former names of both cis women and trans women are not actually news. These are not the women’s names. There is no need to bring these not-their-names into the stories.
We don’t see this same thing happen with the married names of cis women. This is because there is not a strong socio-political interest in invalidating the relationships and marriages of straight, cis women. (The exception where we might see this happen is with regard to cis lesbian couples. By using a cis lesbian’s former name from before her marriage the reporter can not-so-subtly undermine the women’s relationship as less real than that of a straight cis woman who takes her husband’s name.)
So what reporters are really doing when they use names that trans women don’t go by is helping to perpetuate cissexism. They’re using those names that are traditionally associated with males in ways that misgender these women and confirm cissexist beliefs about who trans women “really” are.
This consistent invalidation and marginalization of trans women by the media is a contributing factor to the specific oppressive and violent incidents that these reporters are (poorly) covering. Over and over again, in stories reporting on the deaths of young trans women of color, the reporters will give a woman’s former name in a way that invalidates her gender as a woman. Yet these women are often killed by people using the exact same cissexist logic of disrespect and invalidation. One cannot be separated from the other. These women are not random victims in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rather, their deaths fit a very specific pattern that is reinforced by the society we live in. A society that is bolstered by the way the media reinforces these patterns in its reporting.
A beautiful transgender [woman] has caused a stir by registering as an election candidate for the Nan Provincial Administration Organisation.
"I’m confident that my experience and ability will be useful in the development of Nan," Yonlada "Kirkkong" Suanyos, 30, said yesterday.
This is the first time a transgender [person] has run for a political post at the provincial level. Although she is a new face in politics, she is famous as president of the Trans Female Association of Thailand.
For many years, she has campaigned for the rights of trans-females. The PhD candidate owns a jewellery business and runs a satellite television station.
Last year, she was named by a media organisation as one of the most influential women in Thai society.
"I believe transgenders and homosexuals will support me," she said.
After undergoing a sex-change operation at the age of 16, she is physically a woman but her official documents give her title as “Mr”.
Some entertainment personalities have encouraged Yonlada’s campaign for the Nan councillor post.
Pongthorn Chalearn, a project coordinator for the M Plus Foundation, said Yonlada’s presence in the Nan poll would enhance political diversity.
"Men have long dominated the country’s politics," he said.
She would have a good chance of winning because she has solid support in the northern province, he said. Her mother used to be the head of the Ban Suan Tan community.
Yonlada is contesting as candidate “No 1” in Constituency 1 in Tambon Nai Wiang. Her rivals are Pawat Sattayawong and Suchart Jitbanjong - both men.
Candidacy applications, which opened on Monday, will close on Friday.
But apparently he is still a trans-misogynist about it, misgendering the women by calling her “him” and minimizing his attraction to her by making excuses about being young, horny and drunk. It’s not about whether or not cis people “feel bad” about their violence against trans women. Guilt is not an appropriate response if you are not going to take action to stop the violence.
After a transgender women was brutally stabbed last week in our nation’s capital, it was announced just a day later that she died as the result of the attack. And while we wish we could say this was a rare event, the reality is that all too often those within the transgender and gender queer communities are regularly the victims of violent assaults. In Philly, there are many still open cases involving transgender people – like Nizah Morris, who died of a headwound shortly after being released from police custody in 2002. The case still hasn’t been solved.
The LGBT community has made some important strides in recent years, but it’s not always true for those like Deoni Jones – this latest victim in Washington D.C.
Jones was just 22 years old when she was stabbed at a bus stop on East Capitol Street on Thursday. It was about 8:15 p.m. – and by early Friday morning, the transgender woman was pronounced dead from the injuries sustained by an unknown assailant.
Many within the LGBT community are not only furious about the ongoing violence directed at the transgender community, but also the way in which the mainstream press reports it. In this case, a few D.C. news outlets failed to refer to Jones transgender, and instead, said she was a man who lived as a woman.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the transphobic language deployed by several media outlets last night and this morning,” said Jason Terry of the D.C. Transgender Coalition. “While we certainly agree that the general public needs to be aware of trans community’s losses and successes, it is imperative that members of the press refer to trans people in a way that respects each person’s gender identity or expression.”
Here in Philly, we want to remind you that there are also resources available from the Transgender Health Action Coalition, including a 24-hour hotline: 215-732-1207.
The coalition has also published a helpful safety guide that, quite frankly, is worth reading no matter what your gender or sexual orientation may be. You can access it by clicking here.
Inthukorn Sitthiwong would make an excellent teacher, not only because it’s her life-long dream to help others improve their lives through education but also because she’d be a good role model to many students.
Unfortunately, she’s being asked not to teach - at least not in any way that she could maintain her honesty and dignity.
In her third year at Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Education, Inthukorn was “advised” to start getting used to the idea of wearing a male uniform for her final year of training as a teacher - despite the fact that she’s been a woman all her life.
Yes, she’s one of many transgender women across the country who aspire to become teachers. The difference is that, while everyone before her obeyed the dictates of the regulations and bowed to social pressure and the threat of being flunked, she’s not going to pretend to be someone else.
Fifteen years ago, Rajabhat teachers’ institutes announced they would reject “sexual deviants”. The resulting public uproar forced them to back down, but it’s an open secret that many applicants fail interviews or are steered to other fields because of their gender identity.
Inthukorn’s case has brought back to the surface the debate over whether LGBT people should be allowed to teach.
The basis of the opposition is the fear that children will “copy” their transgender teachers. Science is beginning to understand the roots of gender identity, and there is so far no evidence that this fear has any basis.
An eight-month-old boy whose penis was accidentally severed during circumcision in 1965 was raised as a girl, the parents following the advice of a doctor who believed gender identity could be nurtured.
But “Brenda” Reimer never considered himself a girl, and at puberty threatened to commit suicide rather than see the doctor again. Finally his father told him what happened when he was a baby, and David Reimer decided to resume life as a male. His experience serves as a cautionary lesson that gender identity cannot be changed at will.
By now we should acknowledge that the way we express our gender can be taught and learned, but gender identity is innate. Inthukorn and other transgender women were born with an intuitive sense that they were female, regardless of their physical characteristics. Which gender they identify with should be their choice, a matter of sincere personal feelings, not social expectations.
Even in the US, a society far less familiar with transgender people than Thailand, there has been growing acceptance of transgender teachers. In addition to serving as role models for students who wonder if they too are in the wrong gender category or have already decided, it affords all students a lesson in tolerating diversity.
"The world is full of people and beliefs that not all of us agree on," one Thai parent was recently quoted as saying. "You can’t just tell your kids that if they don’t like it, they should leave. You need to teach them that they don’t have to agree with another person’s beliefs, but they must respect those beliefs."
A century ago our education system was a male monopoly. Then King Rama V built schools for girls too - although only women were allowed to teach there. Today no one bats an eye about girls having male teachers, or about female teachers deserving the same salary as the males and same chances for promotion.
It’s time our education system also embraced transgender teachers, affording them equal legal protection, and take its turn as a role model for Thai society as a whole.
“Babe can you call me the editor of Xtra is using my boy name on his FaceBook in referring to the story I did.” I saw this in my FaceBook messages. It had been a particularly frustrating day – a hard day at work on top of having just been dumped by the girl I was seeing, and then again by the boy I had my eyes on – and I just couldn’t deal, so I ignored Lexi’s message. Not because I didn’t care, but because I only have so much energy.
The day before I had gotten a call from a reporter I knew from Canada’s Gay and Lesbian newspaper Xtra. Andrea Houston was looking for a sex worker to interview for a story she was writing on sex work – a topic that’s being hotly debated right now due to the constitutional challenge underway in an Ontario court over three of the main anti-sex work laws in Canada. I recommended my friend, trans sex worker/reality TV star/filmmaker Lexi Tronic. Lexi’s a smart woman with an incisive tongue and always an interesting take on things. She doesn’t dress things up all pretty like cis feminist sex worker activists like; she tells it like it is – the positives and the negatives – and that, to me, does more to help the decriminalization cause than any happy Gender Studies grad student hooker can.
Lexi was more than happy to be interviewed by Andrea, and she consoled me a bit on my bruised ego, post-dumpings. Lexi’s a solid friend like that. And then off the phone with me, and onto the phone with Xtra. All was well with the world.
The story went up on the online edition of Xtra the next day with the deeply unfortunate title “The Dangers of Sex Work,” but all in all, it was a decent story. Xtra has a history of being a bit sensationalistic, especially when it comes to trans and sex work stories – their profile of me a month previous described my twelve year old self in the very first sentence as a “lost and confused drug addicted trans sex worker,” for example. But, generally, it’s pretty innocuous.
Then came Lexi’s FaceBook message. She followed this up with a copy of messages sent between her, a mutual friend of ours who had alerted her of her former name being used, and the editor in question – Danny Glenwright. In the messages, a surprisingly calm and polite Lexi explained that it was problematic for him to post Lexi’s former name when referring to the article on his FaceBook wall, gave him a link explaining how to respect trans people, and then wished him, in true Lexi fashion, “orgasmic love” for the holidays.
A transgender woman was shot and killed in Northern California over a debt, say police.
The Marin Independent Journalreports that … Lucie Parkin was lying facedown on the floor of room 127 at the La Quinta Inn in Hayward when Miguel Inostroz, who was on parole stemming from burglary and robbery convictions, shot in her the back, killing her.
Police say at least five witnesses had observed Inostroz confronting Parkin over money she owed him. When Parkin attempted to hand over some money, Inostroz produced a pistol and struck her on the head, creating a large laceration and sending her the ground.
According to the police report, “the suspect attempted to control the victim from behind as some witnesses in the room attempted to intervene. The suspect fired the handgun, shooting the victim in the back.”
Inostroz, who fled the scene and was later apprehended after fleeing a traffic stop, is scheduled to enter a plea on November 9. He says the shooting was unintentional.
Original article cited above by the Advocate offensively misidentifies the woman who was shot by a male name and as a man, stating “a pre-op transgender man who wanted to be referred to as a woman.” Advocate then fucks up and also misidentifies the victim by a male name, which has been removed above. The victim’s proper name, which the Advocate placed in quotes, is used above without the improper use of scare quotes.
The Suffolk County Police Department has released new information about the victims of the Long Island serial killers. Killers plural - this stretch of Gilgo Beach appears to be a dumping ground.
And look, the police are ungendering a murdered trans woman!
CNN reports that at a press conference, authorities in Suffolk County shared new details about the victims in the hope that someone will come forward with more information. Police released sketches of what two of the victims might have looked like. The first is the only male victim, an Asian man who was between 17 and 23 when he died. He was murdered five to 10 years ago and was wearing women’s clothing at the time.
Commissioner Dormer is again asking sex workers to come forward with information, but he isn’t offering real amnesty, just saying that the SCPD “are not interested in [sex workers’] occupation.” Jezebel’s take-away is a good one, though:
Since sex workers have the most to fear, and are more likely to have tips on missing associates and johns who behaved bizarrely, perhaps it would have been wise to assure them months ago that they won’t face prostitution charges if they come forward.
A recent wave of violence, including murders in New York City and Washington, D.C., puts an urgent focus on the predicament faced by many transgender women of color.
Earlier this month, advocates, friends, and elected officials gathered in East Harlem to mourn Camila Guzman, a transgender woman found stabbed to death in her apartment August 1. Sad and defiant, with personal tributes and chants of “queremos justicia” (“we want justice”), the evening marked the latest somber recognition for a transgender victim. It also delivered a potent reminder of the multilayered discrimination transgender women of color face because of their race, gender identity, and related factors.
“It boils down to the intersection of prejudices,” said Melissa Sandel, an HIV prevention specialist for the Community Healthcare Network’s transgender family program, who attended the vigil. “It’s hard, period.”
According to a report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs released in July, transgender women of color experienced hate violence far disproportionate to their actual numbers in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected community. People of color represented 70% of all LGBT-bias-related murder victims in 2010, and some 44% of LGBT murder victims were transgender women.
Similar trends have been observed in 2009 and in previous years, but now, as more sensitive portrayals of transgender women emerge in films like Gun Hill Road and marriage equality advocates celebrate victory in New York, the violence provides a jarring comparison of how far many transgender women of color still have to travel for safety and acceptance.
“There’s a lot more attention and public knowledge,” said Chai Jindasurat, NCAVP Coordinator at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. “We’re seeing reporting happening more because our communities are becoming visible, specifically around this violence against transgender women of color. But I think a lot of this is just the tip of the iceberg.”
In July, Lashai McLean, 23, was shot to death in northeast D.C. Her circumstances differ in some ways from Guzman’s, but together the cases illustrate some of the most intractable hurdles faced by transgender women of color, particularly as they relate to law enforcement and media.
Following her murder July 20, police in D.C. identified McLean with her male birth name and circulated a mug shot from a prior arrest. Outraged advocates met with police chief Cathy Lanier last week to discuss the possibility of new reporting protocols and to express related concerns about an attempted shooting of another transgender woman, Tonya Harrell, in the same neighborhood just 11 days later. Combined with an attack on five lesbians at the Columbia Heights metro station that police initially refused to report last month, the incidents have raised questions about the restructuring of the police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit undertaken two years ago.
“I think our overall issues right now are with the police and how they are handling everything,” said Brian Watson, director of programs for Transgender Health Empowerment, where McLean frequented a drop-in center. “We seem to be having issues with how police handle crime as they relate to the LGBT issues.”
Guzman, who was 38, was identified by the wrong gender in at least two local New York media reports. In the most controversial example, the New York Post used male pronouns and referred to her as a “hooker,” which prompted advocates to issue a news release demanding more respectful reporting. The botched reporting of gender and presumption of prostitution for transgender women of color reflects patterns monitored by watchdog groups including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Whether or not victims engage in sex work, advocates say the activity represents a choice of last resort and attests to the discrimination that transgender women of color experience in the job hunt. Many lack educational credentials, having left school before graduation because of bullying or rejection from home.
“A lot of them cannot find employment. It’s survival sex,” said Watson. “When it comes to the stigma, bottom line, we see so many young ladies who do engage in prostitution because they have no other option.”
While McLean was a native of the D.C. area, Guzman was an immigrant from Chile who came to the United States almost a decade ago hoping to live openly as a transgender woman. Immigrants can encounter additional hurdles in documentation matters (like an inability to change gender designations on identification cards and birth certificates), which complicate their efforts to find work and generate calls for broader changes.
“I want President Obama to listen to us so politicians give asylum to transgender immigrants of color who face incredible violence in our home countries,” said Ruby Chavez, a friend of Guzman’s, at the vigil outside her East Harlem apartment. “We are humans.”
Last week police arrested Equan Southall, Guzman’s boyfriend, after he walked into an East Harlem precinct station and reportedly confessed to killing her. No arrest has been made in McLean’s death, one of at least six open transgender homicide cases in the D.C. area from the past 11 years. Each year on International Transgender Day of Remembrance, legions of murdered transgender individuals are memorialized — most of them women — and many of their homicides are never solved.
“The transgender community has not been provided any justice,” said Jeri Hughes, an administrative assistant at Transgender Health Empowerment, who knew McLean. “Enough is enough. We’re tired of burying our women.”
This article is a perfect example of the sort of victim-blaming that is used to attack and invalidate trans women.
Jovanie Saldana is a woman and therefore when held in sex-segregated facilities should be with other women in a women’s facility. This is exactly what happened in her situation. However, because her genital are atypical for a woman, the writer claims Saldana “somehow suckered the system” by ending up in the appropriate facitity.
The writer doesn’t take serious Saldana’s accusations of sexual assault. Apparently a woman’s experience of sexual assault by a male guard inside a women’s prison is not worth reporting on. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is assumed trans women are incapable of being sexual assaulted for whatever reason. Sadly, the writer prefers to present Saldana as being a sexual threat to other inmates. The writer then goes of to suggest that the guard who is accused of raping Saldana is proven “innocent” simply because of the shape of Saldana’s genitals.