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.
WW photo: Leslie Feinberg
The second-degree murder trial of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald in Minneapolis started April 30 and ended May 2. McDonald’s situation highlights the anti-transgender bigotry and racism rampant in society, as well as the inability of the “justice” system to mete out justice for the oppressed.
McDonald, a young African-American trans woman, survived a racist, anti-trans attack in July 2011. As she and her friends, all of them youths, African-American and queer or allied, walked to a grocery store late one night, they were brutally set upon by a group of racist whites outside a bar. McDonald was hit in the face with a glass and her cheek severely punctured. She was jailed and was the only person charged after a melee that left one of her attackers, a racist complete with a swastika tattooed on his body, dead.
Originally charged with second-degree felony murder and facing a possible sentence of decades in prison, McDonald agreed to the prosecution’s offer of pleading guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree manslaughter, with a prison term of 41 months.
Katie Burgess, of the Trans Youth Support Network, stated in a press release: “The executed sentence will be reduced by one-third, for ‘good time’ and credit for the time McDonald has served pending this resolution.
“The plea agreement comes nearly a year after McDonald was arrested, interrogated, denied adequate medical care for a laceration she suffered during the attack and held in solitary confinement for a month for being a transgender person. During the pre-trial proceedings, supporters raised worldwide support for the charges against McDonald to be dropped. [In April], supporters delivered to Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman a petition for dropping the charges with over 15,000 signatures and dozens of letters of support for McDonald from organizations and prominent individuals from around the globe.” (supportcece.wordpress.com, May 2)
Criminalized for fighting back, surviving
Transgender people of color face violence, murder and injustice daily throughout the United States. For surviving her attack, McDonald is criminalized. Others are not so “lucky.”
On April 16, Paige Clay was found dead in Chicago’s West Garfield Park from a single gunshot to her forehead. Clay, 23, was a trans woman of color. No one has been arrested for her murder. Brandy Martell was shot and killed on April 29 in Oakland, Calif., as she sat in her car, talking with three trans friends. The killer fired even as she tried to drive away. Martell, 37, was a trans woman of color and a peer advocate for transgender people in need of psychological and medical assistance. No arrests have been made. (xojane.com, May 9)
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs issued a report in 2011 on “hate” violence motivated by gender identity and expression, sexuality and HIV status. A whopping 70 percent of anti-lesbian/gay/bi/trans murders in 2010 were of people of color. Forty-four percent of these victims were transgender women. (colorlines.com, July 18)
McDonald, like other trans women, will most likely face threats of sexual and other violence when she is incarcerated in an all-male facility.
The struggle for justice for McDonald continues. Stated Burgess: “We know that this system is not designed to deliver justice to young trans women of color. We are going to continue to support CeCe as she goes through this process and continue to stand for justice for all trans people and people of color so that this is the last time a young trans woman of color has to go through this.”
Supporters in Minneapolis and surrounding areas are urged to attend her sentencing on June 4 at 1:30 p.m., in the courtroom of Hennepin County Judge Daniel Moreno. A petition urging Minnesota’s governor to pardon McDonald can be signed at change.org/petitions/gov-mark-dayton-pardon-cece-mcdonald. Visit supportcece.wordpress.com for more information on how to support justice for McDonald and other trans people and people of color.
(By Kris Hamel, Workers World)
Another powerful, must read post from Monica Maldonado.
I urge us all to remember that none of us deserve to be victims. We all suffer to some extent. But we have to allow ourselves to mourn, healthily, the loss of our sisters, and not ask “why not me next?!”
23-year-old Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, was the victim of a racist and transphobic assault. Now she’s going to prison.
What also makes “it” so tragic is that by last June, McDonald already had an abundance of transphobic violence under her belt. On the site that activists from the Minneapolis-based Trans Youth Support Network created for her, she recalls beatings, racial discrimination and blame:
"I grew up in a community that was predominately African-American people. And with the fact of me just being a minority in this society was bad, being African American and trans is an ultimate challenge. I can remember having loaded guns being put to my head and being beat until bloody. Or walking downs the street and being yelled “ a faggot.” I thought because of their ignorance I decided to change my surroundings. So I moved to a suburban community, which were predominately white people. Then, I remember people grabbing their purses and children, like I was a thief and was going to steal their money and kids, and to still be yelled “queer” or “faggot”, which made me feel upset and that my efforts of leaving one community to another, went without victory."
Here’s McDonald on a particularly painful bashing where she felt guilty for not “properly” defending herself:
"I remember being harassed everywhere from school to even the people in my own neighborhood. One incident where I came from my local store and being harassed there, but I spoke up for myself and I guess the men didn’t like that. When I walked out the store I was followed and then jumped by 5 guys, all who were in high school while I was only in the 7th grade. And it seemed that when I tried defending myself, [they] retaliated more. I can remember hearing them yell, “Kill that faggot” as they [stomped] and [punched] me. I begged them to stop, but they continued. After they took my money, they ran off leaving me there. No one was there to help me, and I was scared to even move, even though I was only a couple feet from my house. When I walked in the house, my mom asked why it took so long, and then she turned around and noticed that I was bloody and distraught. It hurt me for my mom to have to see me like that. Her reaction was grabbing her shoes and the closest thing she could use for a weapon, and asked who they were and where they lived. I told her to forget about it, and she was furious that I could just let that happen to me and not retaliate. My biggest fear was my mom or siblings getting hurt in the process of defending me, or even being associated with me. I went to the bathroom and cleaned myself up. And as I washed my face blood continued to run, which is when I noticed that during the jumping my lip went through my tooth which caused me to have a scar over my top lip, and it’s still there.”
Stories like McDonald’s aren’t at all unusual. Research shows that Black transgender people weather a disproportionate amount of discrimination, brutality, police harassment, sexual assault and incarceration. Instances abound of transgender women of color being murdered because of their assailants’ individual bias or systemic bias that makes them so much more vulnerable to homelessness and participation in an underground economy. The crimes often go unpunished, unrecognized, misreported and unnoticed outside of their immediate communities.
In the aftermath of McDonald’s case, some activists are calling for systemic change. I agree with them, of course. But I also want to use this space to say, point blank, Crishaun “CeCe” McDonald should not be in prison for defending herself against a racist transphobe who decided to pick a fight with her and her friends. If she weren’t a Black transgender woman, she wouldn’t be expected to stand for that kind of abuse.
Actually, she would be considered a survivor.
Akiba Solomon is an NABJ-Award winning writer, freelance journalist, editor and essayist from West Philadelphia. She writes about the intersection between gender and race for Colorlines and is the co-editor of Naked: Black Women Bare All About Their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips, and Other Parts .
It was just announced that CeCe McDonald, who was being charged with two counts of second-degree murder in an incident of self-defense, has just taken a plea-deal—second degree manslaughter with a recommended 41 month sentence. CeCe McDonald’s sentencing hearing will be in a month.
But Ms. McDonald isn’t the first young Black trans woman to be thrown in jail and aggressively prosecuted for surviving a violent attack on her life. Unfortunately, without real systematic change, she isn’t likely to be the last either.
It should be no secret that young trans women of color (TWOC) are being murdered at alarming rates. This is a social problem largely ignored by most people, including the media, the service/nonprofit sector and government. But this is something people in the affected communities can’t afford to ignore.
But attacks on the lives of TWOC don’t go without resistance, and when TWOC resist sometimes their attackers end up dead. This was the case with Ms. McDonald, but it was also the case last year with Akira Jackson, a Black trans woman currently serving a four-year sentence for “manslaughter” for stabbing her boyfriend in self-defense when he beat her with a baseball bat.
Jackson, a Detroit native, moved to the California Bay Area where she became an advocate for young TWOC. She was a Program Specialist from TLISH (Transgender Ladies Initiating Sisterhood), a transgender youth program where she spent her time counseling young women about housing, government assistance, and employment.
If Ms. McDonald and Ms. Jackson weren’t Black trans women it is likely that their cases might have ended up differently. By being criminalized for their survival, these two women share something in common with many other women of color, including the New Jersey 4, a group of Black lesbian women who were attacked in the New York City’s West Village and later aggressively prosecuted for defending themselves. The attacker fully recovered, but the women were forced to serve time.
It’s a sad irony that we promote self-defense classes as a way of combating violence against women, yet many of the women of color, trans and cis alike, are currently imprisoned precisely because they fought back against violence in their homes and in the streets.
Too often trans and queer women of color survive violence in their homes and on the streets only to have the police, courts and the prison-industrial complex come after them for having the audacity to survive in a world where, as Audre Lorde said in her poem “A Litany For Survival,” they “were never meant to survive.”