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.
Funeral and wake arrangements for Paige Clay, a transgender woman who was found shot to death on the city’s West Side April 16, have been set for later this week.
A wake for Clay will be held at Acklin Funeral Home, 1325 W. 87th St., on Friday May 4 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Funeral services will be held shortly after, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Over 160 people are expected to attend a rally to remember and demand justice for Clay on May 1. The rally, Justice for Paige, will be held at TaskForce Prevention Services, 9 N. Cicero Ave., and will begin at 6:30 p.m.
More is being learned about the murder of a transgender woman in Oakland over the weekend. Brandy Martell was shot to death in downtown Oakland at Franklin and 13th Street just a block from city hall. Her friends believe the killing was a hate crime.
37-year-old Brandy Martell was sitting behind the wheel of her car around 5:15 a.m. Sunday when one or two men walked up and began a conversation. A witness told ABC7 the conversation was cordial, but then a few minutes later, one of the men became angry and fired into the car right where Martell was sitting.
Until late last year, Martell worked as an outreach worker at the Tri-City Health Center in Fremont which serves the transgender and transsexual community. “When you don’t provide a space in society for people who you think are the other or different, especially transgender women, especially transgender women of color, when you don’t provide spaces for them to be in a safe environment or a safe space, whether it’s socializing or services, this is what happens,” Martell’s friend Tiffany Woods told ABC7.
People gathered at the scene of the shooting Sunday night to remember Martell. Her murder was one of three in Oakland over the weekend.
Investigators are talking to witnesses and trying to figure out exactly what led up to the shooting. It could be considered a hate crime if they find out that the shooter was motivated by a perception of the victim’s sexual identity.
The case of Chrishaun McDonald continues to build intrigue as her murder trial gets under way today.
Her defenders maintain the black transgender woman was protecting herself from a hate crime when she allegedly stabbed Dean Schmitz, 47, a white man from Richfield. National transgender-rights activists are in town today to talk about the significance of the case.
Local elected officials also have shown support for the 23-year-old McDonald, who was studying fashion at Minneapolis Community and Technical College and is known to friends as “CeCe.” Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon weighed in on his blog weeks ago, arguing that McDonald was targeted for her race and gender.
“It is unfortunate that in this case, as in so many, the hate crime itself appears to have been ignored,” said Gordon.
McDonald said she was acting in self-defense after a friend in Schmitz’ group hurled a glass at McDonald’s face. She also maintains that the group taunted her and her friends with anti-gay and racist remarks.
And state Rep. Susan Allen, DFL-Minneapolis, has written Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, urging him to remember the “extenuating circumstances” of McDonald’s race and transgender, which she said “have cast unique question marks” over the case.
But the details of what happened last June outside of the Schooner Tavern in Minneapolis remain in dispute. Despite pressure from LGBT groups to drop the charges, Freeman responded in a letter to McDonald supporters that the evidence will show murder was the appropriate charge. “Gender, race, sexual orientation and class are not part of the decision-making process,” he said.
A hearing Friday hinted at the dueling narratives that will likely emerge during the trial. Hersch Izek, McDonald’s attorney, said McDonald walked away from the scuffle, but Schmitz followed her to continue the fight.
Prosecutors aren’t buying that story. “We don’t believe the evidence will show Ms. McDonald walked away from anything,” said assistant county attorney Amy Sweasy. “Ms. McDonald has given more versions of the events of that night than I can count.”
McDonald told police that she took out some scissors to scare Schmitz, and he was mortally stabbed when he ran into them.
Another twist in the case came Friday as attorneys argued whether Judge Daniel Moreno should allow evidence of Schmitz’ swastika tattoo on his chest. Prosecutors say it’s not relevant.
But Izek countered that the tattoo represents Schmitz’ “hate, violence and his attitude toward people of color and people who are different from him,” he said. “CeCe is as different from Mr. Schmitz as anybody.”
The Justice Department’s National Crime Victim Service Award honors individuals and programs that provide services to victims of crime. Many of the service providers were at one time victims themselves.
Such is the case of Victoria Cruz, a transgender activist and counselor for domestic abuse, who was a recipient of the 2012 award.
Cruz first made headlines back in 1997 when she was working at Cobble Hill Nursing Home and she accused four female co-workers of harassing her and calling her names such as “Anti-man” and “Battyman,” pejorative sexual slurs used by West Indians for homosexuals. Two of her coworkers were found guilty of harassment and the two others were acquitted by the court. At the time of the assault, Cruz was still waiting to get her surgical operation.
She sought out support from New York City’s Anti-Violence Project (AVP) an organization founded in 1980 in reaction to incidents of anti-LGBT violence and the failure of the criminal legal system to respond. AVP works to empower the LGBT community and support survivors through counseling and advocacy, according to their mission statement.
In AVP, Cruz found the support that she needed during her case. She started working with the organization in 1997 and has since dedicated her life to helping other victims of domestic violence, police violence and rape in the LGBT community.
Cruz came out at a very young age. And while she found rejection from many of her peers, her family always stood by her side.
“I was born different and I always acted as a female. And even doing my primary schooling, they would call me ‘queer’,” Cruz said to The Huffington Post. “‘Gay’ at the time meant a jovial person.”
“But I always had the support of my family and that is so important and some transgender people don’t get the support of their family for whatever reason.”
Originally born in Puerto Rico, Cruz moved to New York with her family at the age of 4. She grew up in Red Hook, Brooklyn and is now a resident of East Flatbush. She is one of the oldest of 11 siblings.
“When you come from a modest family you learn to raise your younger siblings,” said Cruz to The Huffington Post. “It taught me about how to be a counselor, but, more importantly, it taught me about human nature. It taught me to be fair in life.”
Everyday she brings the lessons she learned from her family to her work at AVP.
“Sometimes we speak of the most intimate things in people’s lives,” said Cruz. “We make sure the client safe, heard and respected. We present avenues and services for their cases but they decide what’s best for them. But the most important thing is that we know they’re safe.”
Alongside 11 others, Cruz was awarded the national honor by Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday in the National Crime Victims’ Service Awards ceremony in Washington D.C.
All the people honored transformed “their own experiences into a positive force for sweeping change,” Holder said in a statement according to the NY Daily News.
“For me it’s very humbling [to win this award] and I’m honored, but to me all of this is also very healing,” said Cruz. “When I see someone get the help that they need, I also get the help and I’m always glad that I’m able to help someone.”
“This award is very positive. It makes the invisible, very visible. It allows our community to know the services that are there for them, to show our community that when they are in darkness they can always come to light.”
The shooting of Trayvon Martin isn’t the only case raising serious questions about which Americans the justice system is designed to serve.
Later this month, a young African-American transgender woman named CeCe McDonald will face two counts of second-degree murder after a brutal transphobic assault left her bloody and an attacker dead.
McDonald was walking in Minneapolis with her friends—also black, also gender/sexual minorities—last June when a group of older white adults began harassing them, calling them racial and transphobic slurs. McDonald replied by politely asking them to stop. According to police reports, one of the white adults then smashed a beer glass into McDonald’s face.
When police arrived at the location, McDonald was lying in a pool of blood, and Dean Schmitz, one of the white adults, was dead.
McDonald initially confessed to stabbing Schmitz in the melee; although she later withdrew her confession, she filed a self-defense claim in December. Minnesota law provides for enhanced penalties for assaults committed based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender presentation, but McDonald was the only person arrested in conjunction with the attack.
To trans people and advocates, the ambiguities around the events of June 5, 2011 are interwoven with the reality that transgender women—and particularly transgender women of color—face high rates of discrimination, incredible poverty, and violent hate-based assault. The majority of murdered trans people commemorated on the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance are trans women of color.
In a journal entry McDonald wrote after her arrest, she describes growing up in a hostile world: An uncle choked her when he found a letter to a male friend in her backpack, and a group of high school boys beat her bloody when she was in seventh grade, yelling “kill that faggot” the whole time.
The same prejudice extends to organizations purported to protect citizens from this sort of violence. A Williams Institute report found that the vast majority of Latina trans women surveyed had faced harassment by police, and that even when they attempted to report crimes committed against them, 57 percent said they were treated “poorly” or “very poorly” by police officers.
Given the incredible danger trans women of color face from violent individuals, McDonald’s grassroots supporters—and some transgender celebrities like Laverne Cox—have been urging Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman to drop the charges based on self-defense. Freeman has done this before: In October, he dropped charges against a white man who shot and killed a black man who had just committed a robbery, saying that the evidence indicated the crime was committed in self-defense.
McDonald’s supporters have succeeded in reducing her bail from $150,000 to $75,000, and they’re using social media sites to coordinate support for McDonald and her family. An online petition has garnered nearly 14,000 signatures demanding that Freeman drop the charges against McDonald. If Freeman doesn’t, McDonald’s supporters intend to wear purple in the courtroom to show solidarity with their “Honee Bea.”
McDonald’s own words reflect this case’s haunting question: “Would they have taken the same lengths to prosecute [Schmitz] if he had killed me?
Early in the morning of April 24th a group of angry queers smashed out the windows of Mars Hill Church in Southeast Portland. Mars Hill is notoriously anti-gay and anti-woman. Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill’s head pastor, has said that women need to be subservient to their husbands and that gay people are a cancer. His personal brand of Christianity crusades against the “feminization” of Jesus - we angry queers are not fans of Jesus, but we have a problem with anyone who has a problem with femmes.
This action was taken in memory of Mark Aguhar, a fierce queer/trans femme of color and artist from Chicago who killed herself a little over a month ago. We also hold in our hearts Paige Clay, a trans woman of color who was found murdered in Chicago on April 16th; Duanna Johnson, a black trans woman who was in all likelihood murdered by the police in 2008; Agnes Torres Sulca, Deoni Jones, and all other trans women who have been murdered by this cissexist, femmephobic, racist, and transmisogynistic society.
Churches are a major contributor to the culture that deems trans women of color to be disposable, as not worth keeping alive. …
One night in front of a Minneapolis bar has changed CeCe McDonald’s life forever.
In light of the Trayvon Martin killing — an incident in which a black youth armed with only a cell phone and pack of Skittles was killed by a white neighborhood patrol member — there’s been a whirlwind of media coverage debating the issues of race and justice and occasionally how LGBT folks should or do fit into the mix.
Nowhere are those issues more apparent than in the case of CeCe McDonald, a 23-year-old African-American transgender woman who goes on trial in Minneapolis April 30 for second-degree murder. It’s a case that has galvanized Minnesota’s LGBT community as well as transgender and African-American individuals nationwide. To many it’s served as a stark reminder that that black and transgender people experience imprisonment at a rate significantly disproportionate to that of the general U.S. population. And according to recent studies by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, trans people are at greater risk of discrimination, mistreatment, harassment, and assault throughout their experiences with the criminal justice system.
McDonald (named Chrishaun by her parents, nicknamed CeCe by her friends) was charged with second-degree murder after a June 5, 2011, incident in Minneapolis, on an evening that began like many in the city. At the time, McDonald was a vibrant and creative young woman known by her friends as energetic and optimistic. She was studying fashion at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, a program that’s the only one of its kind in the upper Midwest and has led many bright young students to Minneapolis’s rather vibrant fashion and theater scenes for work.
She lived with and helped support four other African-American youth, her chosen family of queer and trans kids she was trying to mentor and assist. Each person described her as a leader, a role model, and a loyal friend, and notably, a woman who had, say many supporters, a history of handling prejudice with amazing grace. Her friends called her Honee Bea.
On June 5, 2011, McDonald and four black friends, all of them trans or queer, headed out to Cub Foods, a popular grocery store in south Minneapolis, just after midnight. The grocery store is in one of those business strips where working-class and immigrant entrepreneurs struggle for the American dream. It is, writes Redlark, a white lower-middle-class queer activist in the Twin Cities, in a Tumblr post in support of McDonald, “a busy, polluted, vital artery” between a police station and a light rail station, “in a historically contested neighborhood where communities meet, mix, and sometimes contend: the older white working class who bought in during the ’70s and ’80s meets immigrants from Mexico, Somalia, and Central America who came looking for work or for political refuge; Native people still under the gun of colonization; African-Americans who’ve lived in Minneapolis for generations or arrived from Chicago or New Orleans in the last few years; students, punks, and radicals, mostly, but not exclusively white, gentrifiers or born in the neighborhood.”
Along the route, the group had to pass a dive bar, the Schooner Tavern, one of the first liquor establishments in Minneapolis, which has been going strong since Prohibition ended. It’s the kind of place that has pool tables and karaoke, Viking games on the TV, Jagermeister Tuesdays and free hot dog Fridays, 15 types of beer on tap, and open jams on the weekend.
But as McDonald and her friends walked near the bar, two women and a man, all of them Caucasian, began to verbally harass the group, according to witnesses. McDonald says they called her and her friends the n word as well as “faggots” and “chicks with dicks.” Her roommate Latvia Taylor told the Minneapolis Star Tribunethat the man, Dean Schmitz, also asked McDonald, “Did you think you were going to rape somebody in those girl clothes?”
Sadly, for McDonald, a trans woman of color, the verbal harassment was nothing new, but this time she decided to stand up for herself. The group stopped, and McDonald told the trio that she wouldn’t stand for their racist and transphobic attacks. Soon one woman reportedly yelled, “I’ll take you on, bitch” and hit McDonald in the side of the face with a glass beer mug, lacerating her salivary gland and slicing her cheek through to the interior of her mouth.Supporters argued that the harsher charge demonstrates that the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office continues to side with the white supremacists who attacked her and fail to acknowledge the hate crime that McDonald suffered, says Katie Burgess, executive director of the Trans Youth Support Network. “There is a clear choice to be made in this situation: Do you stand with white supremacists? Or do you stand with queer youth of color in our community? Hennepin County has chosen to protect the interests of hate and bigotry. As people of conscience and compassion, we’re calling on them to exercise their discretion in this case and drop the charges against CeCe!”
What happened next is murky still. What cops might call a bar fight ensued, with several more people joining in the melee. At the end, McDonald was lying in a pool of her own blood, Schmitz in a pool of his blood. The father of four had lost too much blood to survive.
The 47-year-old Schmitz had been stabbed with a pair of fabric scissors that McDonald had her in purse. Confused and frightened, McDonald first allegedly told police Schmitz had run into her scissors as she was fighting back from the all-out assault on her, an act of protection that came with the ultimate cost. Later she said it was a friend of hers who used the scissors to protect her. It’s not clear if CeCe McDonald is sure exactly what happened, but she does know one thing: She isn’t guilty of second-degree murder.
Schmitz died before EMTs arrived. When police arrived, they arrested McDonald and no one else. After she received 11 stitches in her face and waited three hours, the police interrogated her without counsel. After she signed a confession, she almost immediately recanted, says Billy Navarro Jr., cofounder of the Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition’s Shot Clinic/Syringe Exchange, and a leader of the Free CeCe Campaign, something McDonald’s attorney will be reminding jurors later this month, no doubt.
After her arrest, McDonald was placed in solitary confinement in the local jail, something that’s common for incarcerated transgender women but no less harrowing because of that. McDonald says she asked frequently to be put into general housing with other prisoners — after all, life in “the hole” is terrifying and lonely — but Hennepin County jail officials kept her in the hole for a month “for her protection.” Eventually she was transferred to a male psychiatric unit in a local facility and two months into her incarceration she was finally taken back to a doctor to check up on the wound she suffered in the Schooner Tavern attack, which by then, says Navarro, “had turned into a painful, golf ball-sized lump.”
Several blogs and Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon later reported that the Hennepin county medical examiner found a Nazi swastika tattoo on Schmitz’s chest (the report is not online) and his brother, Charles Pelfrey, told the Minneapolis Star Tribunethat hate speech–type language coming from his brother wasn’t a surprise. “At times he can be like that, yes,” Pelfrey said. “It depends on his mood, unfortunately.”
But still, prosecutor Michael Freeman has refused to drop the charges.
The National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force recently conducted an extensive nationwide survey of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals to evaluate the frequency and intensity of discrimination they face. What they found is shocking but bears weight on the case against CeCe McDonald: 38% of African-American respondents experienced police harassment, 15% reported being physically assaulted by the police, and 7% reported being sexually assaulted by the police; 38% of African American MTF (male-to-female) respondents reported being sexually assaulted by either another inmate or a staff member in jail/prison; 41% of African-American respondents reported being imprisoned because of their race and gender identity alone; a whopping 47% reported having been in jail or prison for any reason.
What some of those statistics boil down to is that nearly half of the respondents (46%) were uncomfortable seeking police assistance, and transgender people — perhaps because they are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty — are 10 to 15 times more likely to be incarcerated at some point in their life.
McDonald, whose pretrial court date is April 24, and her first trial date April 30, was initially charged with second-degree murder without intent. After she refused a plea agreement, on October 6, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office added an additional charge of second-degree murder with intent; one dead man, two murder charges, each of which can land her 40 years in Minnesota state prison.
Burgess and Navarro are just two of the many leaders of the Free CeCe movement and are helping to plan a large protest at Government Center April 26, ahead of her trial date. Her supporters include several high-profile LGBT individuals, such as author Leslie Feinberg, as well as local organizations (as diverse as Queers for Economic Justice, Transgender Law Center, TGI Justice Project, the Department of Multicultural Life at Macalester College, the University of Minnesota’s African-American and African Studies Department, and Communities United Against Police Brutality). There are dozens more, as well as local luminaries and politicians at state and local levels. Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon released a statement saying, “I am adding my voice to the growing number of those speaking up to support CeCe McDonald and call for fairness, transparency, and expediency in her case. Chrishaun CeCe McDonald’s case started with a tragic incident that occurred last summer that left one person dead. The basic facts don’t seem to be an issue in this case that now centers on CeCe, a 23-year-old African-American transgender woman charged with second-degree murder. It appears that CeCe was the victim of a hate crime that involved many people but she was the only person held by the police. Here is another example of transgender women of color being targeted for hate- and bias-related violence. It is unfortunate that in this case, as in so many, the hate crime itself appears to have been ignored.”
Dean Spade, assistant professor at Seattle University School of Law and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project; Minnie Bruce Pratt, author of S/he; and Kate Bornstein, author of Gender Outlaw are all among the renown supporters calling for McDonald’s release.
Actress Laverne Cox wrote in The Huffington Post, “This case highlights how even when trans people, particularly trans people of color, are lucky enough to survive the brutal violence that is a part of so many of our lives, we are all too often victimized all over again by the criminal justice system.” The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, another McDonald supporter, says that hate crimes affect people of color at alarmingly higher rates compared to other trans people, and this case is a stark reminder of the injustice of that.
“I think also we see this as such obvious institutionalized racism and transphobia,” says Navarro, “for several reasons. When this incident happened no arrests were made of anyone but CeCe, and she was the only trans woman of color there. They didn’t arrest the white, [non-trans] woman who attacked her and left her bleeding after she smashed a glass beer mug on CeCe’s face. There has also been no physical evidence brought into court saying that CeCe did anything. The only witnesses that say she did anything wrong are a part of the group of racist, white adults that attacked her and her friends.”
It’s not the only injustice in the case, he says. Housing “someone that presents as female with men” means McDonald is not safe and “the justice system’s only solution to that is to put her into solitary confinement, which, if you have read the studies, is pure torture.”
Feinberg, who knew the sting of anti-trans violence decades ago, is urging everyone to find a way to support McDonald’s plea for release. “CeCe McDonald — with the help of organized supporters — is struggling to free herself from behind bars after successfully defending herself against a bloody attack by a group who used white supremacist, transphobic, gay-hating, antiwoman, youth-bashing slurs and violent physical assault,” he says. “The right of self-defense against all forms of oppressions — the spirit of Stonewall — is at the heart of the demand to free her.”
Today, Feinberg is just one of many people and organizations showing support from outside the state of Minnesota. Three official support committees have popped up — in Chicago, Buffalo, N.Y., and Bloomington, Ind. — and several ones are forming in New York, California, and even Paris, says Navarro.
These committees have thrown fund-raisers, hosted community education and rallying events, and have spread McDonald’s story via radio, newspapers, blogs, and even Tumblr.
Supporters also delivered a petition with over 12,000 signatures and a letter signed by 35 local, state, and national organizations directly to Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman’s office earlier this week, says Burgess, demanding that he drop the two second-degree murder charges levied against McDonald. He has so far declined to do so.
“Leslie [Feinberg] and many others have been working on a national and international level to let folks know about CeCe and all the racist transphobia she’s having to deal with as she fights for her life,” Navarro says. “And we have to remember that this whole incident could have so easily gone another way, as so often it does with young trans women of color. More often then not, we are fighting to prosecute our sisters’ murders. It’s a statistical anomaly that CeCe survived this brutal attack. If a straight, heck, even gay white man was to be attacked and survive, he most likely would not be treated the way CeCe has. She survived; she is basically being prosecuted for surviving.”
Tens of thousands of people across the U.S. and around the world have mobilized to demand the arrest of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Because Zimmerman maintains that he acted in self-defense, he has not been arrested by the Sanford, Fla., police department or charged by the prosecutor.
The legal justification of self-defense in the U.S has not worked in the same way for most people of color, women and lesbian/gay/bi/trans people, many of whom survive brutal bigoted attacks and then are arrested and convicted for defending themselves. John White, an African-American father living in Long Island, N.Y., was convicted of murder for protecting his son from an angry white mob in 2006. The New Jersey 7, young Black lesbians who defended themselves against a vicious anti-lesbian attack, were arrested and four of them sentenced to from three-and-a-half to 11 years in prison.
This holds true in the case of Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, a 23-year-old African-American trans woman who was attacked by patrons of a Minneapolis tavern on June 5 of last year. While McDonald and her friends were on their way to a nearby grocery store, the patrons assaulted them with racist and anti-LGBT slurs. Many of the vicious remarks were directed at McDonald, as a Black trans woman. All of McDonald’s friends were people of color and youths, while those who attacked them were all white and older.
Desperate for help and covered in blood from having a glass mug smashed in her face, it was McDonald who first approached police arriving on the scene. The police arrested her and to this day have made no arrests against her attackers. And while there is no physical evidence tying her to the stabbing of Dean Schmitz, one of the men who attacked her, McDonald now faces second-degree murder charges.
As McDonald’s April 30 trial date approaches, national outrage has strengthened the political campaign to have the charges dropped.
“Our goal is to deliver a petition with 10,000 signatures on April 24 to Michael Freeman, the Hennepin County attorney, demanding he drop the charges against CeCe,” Billy Navarro Jr., an organizer with the CeCe McDonald Support Committee based in Minneapols, told Workers World. On April 24, McDonald must appear in court for a pre-trial hearing. “Young people from the Trans Youth Support Network have planned a ‘dance party’ protest right in front of Freeman’s office on April 26. [McDonald] is a valued community member, and we want to show that there is support for her not only here but also around the country.”
CeCe ‘a leader and role model’
“CeCe in many ways is a leader and role model. Back when this happened, the newspapers called her a man and only used her birth name. We all know her as CeCe, so it took a few days before the community sprang into action. It has been hard on our community not having her with us,” said Navarro.
McDonald was born in Chicago in 1989 and came out as a trans person at the age of 14. After moving to Minneapolis, she became active in the community, often participating in panels against racism and trans oppression. Talented in fashion design, CeCe had been pursuing her associate’s degree in fashion at a local college for the last two years. She supported herself through a part-time job at a café.
One of McDonald’s most important contributions was taking care of younger LGBT youth. According to Navarro: “She was the one with stable housing and finances, so she took in people younger than her so they wouldn’t end up on the streets. She created a sense of family for them. … Some of those young people were forced to go back to living in hostile, anti-gay family situations or are now surfing from couch to couch.”
Another thing that has been hard for McDonald is that her birth family lives far away. “CeCe is a fighter and is generally so strong, but this is one thing she really gets emotional about,” said Navarro. “She misses her mother and siblings in Chicago so much, and they are really supportive of her. But it is so expensive for them to travel here for her court dates. We are trying to raise money or have miles donated to bring her family here for the trial on April 30.”
Growing national campaign
“Since this whole thing started, we have packed the courtroom, the hallway and rallied outside at every court date,” said Navarro. “The biggest one drew over 100 supporters. We want to have people from all over the Midwest come out for both the pre-trial hearing on April 24 and the first day of trial on April 30.”
The committee is seeking endorsements as well as letters of solidarity to be sent to Freeman from individuals, unions and political groups. Midwest groups such as OutFront Minnesota, the African-American and African Studies Department of the University of Minnesota, the Trans Youth Support Network, the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department of Macalester College, the Women’s Prison Book Project and the Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement have joined the effort.
Nationally, groups like the Transgender Gender Variance Intersex Justice Project, the Transgender Law Center in California and Queers for Economic Justice in New York have called for the charges to be dropped. Trans historian and author Leslie Feinberg has begun a call within the labor movement for labor union activists and unions to send solidarity statements. Support committees and activist groups are raising funds and holding events in Brooklyn and Buffalo, N.Y.; Bloomington, Ind.; Chicago; San Francisco and Oakland, Calif.; and Boston.
“We have gotten pictures from the International Women’s Day march on March 31 in New York City that carried signs about CeCe, and we have even been in touch with activists in Paris who are building support around CeCe’s case,” said Navarro. “Between now and April 30, we need events, fundraisers and to get CeCe’s name out all over the press. We not only want to free CeCe but we want to take a stand against racist transphobic attacks happening all over the country.”
To sign the petition, endorse and organize to free CeCe McDonald, see supportcece.wordpress.com.
A Detroit man has been sentenced to serve 25 to 40 years in prison for the brutal October killing and dismemberment of a transgender teen, reports the Detroit News. Qasim Raqib killed 19-year-old Shelley Hilliard and burned her torso in retaliation for a drug sting.
Qasim Raqib was sentenced by 3rd Circuit Judge Bruce Morrow after pleading guilty March 7 to second-degree murder charges in the death of [Shelley Hilliard]. Authorities said Raqib mutilated Hilliard’s body and set the 19-year-old on fire in the street on Detroit’s east side. The killing occurred days after Hilliard worked with police in an attempt to set Raqib up in a drug deal.
Hilliard’s charred body was discovered near a Detroit freeway on October 23. Hilliard’s mother said that a cab driver took her daughter to a home where three men apparently ambushed her. Hilliard tried to call the cab driver for help when the line went dead.
Bravo to the Detroit Police Department and Wayne County prosecutors for the speedy arrest and conviction in the case. In addition to being at the greatest risk of violence, the murders of Black trans women are often unsolved. Black transgender women face “extreme discrimination and poverty”, and are more than likely to suffer from violence, physical or sexual abuse, police brutality, HIV/AIDS and bullying, according to a first of its kind survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Black Justice Coalition.
In related news: Detroit police are searching for the killer(s) of 35-year-old Coko Williams. The Black trans woman was found Tuesday with bullet wounds and her throat slashed. Trans activists are outraged over the media coverage—and with FOX Detroit’s comparison of Williams’ body to trash on the street.
I’m not sure that the Detroit police deserve much applause in this case, since they basically set up the situation that motivated Raqib to target and murder Hilliard. Yet police so often ignore and dismiss the murders of trans women of color that we are expected to feel grateful when an arrest and conviction is actually achieved. Even when it is a case that is so blatantly obvious since the police themselves made the victim a target when they forced her to set up the very person who would murder her three days later. Where is that accountability for the Detroit Police Department’s role in Hilliard’s death?
Jenna Talackova Can Compete, But the Fight Against Trans Injustice Rages On
We’ve identified the victim and will be contacting her friends and family shortly. Thank you for everyone who reblogged, and if you think you might know the victim contact me or DCTC for more information.
I’ll try to keep posting as we learn more.
The victim’s name is Deoni Jones.
Detroit Police confirm that an arrest has been made in the murder of Michelle “Shelly” Moore, a transgender woman whose torso was found on the east side of Detroit near I-94 on Oct. 23. Moore was last seen at around 1 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd, when a cab driver she used frequently dropped her off at a house in Detroit where three men were waiting outside. Just minutes after, Moore called the driver again saying she felt uncomfortable and asking that he return. But the phone went dead mid-call and by the time he made it back to the house there was no sign of her.
Police investigated several leads in the case, including the possibility of a hate crime, which they dismissed early on after learning of Moore’s involvement with prostitution and illegal drugs. According to Detroit Police, Moore had been living in Motel 6 in Madison Heights with another sex worker, and the women would leave on “out calls” to service customers.
About a week before Moore went missing, Madison Heights Police caught the women in their room smoking marijuana. Moore’s companion was arrested and Moore was given the opportunity to avoid arrest by helping police arrest her drug dealer. Police say Moore called her drug dealer and asked him to deliver marijuana and other “harder drugs,” and police arrested him en route to the motel.
“This murder was brutal. It seemed very personal,” said Detective White of the Detroit Police Department. “It seemed like revenge, and it happened right after this drug bust.” White and his team of detectives took every lead seriously, and worked for weeks to tie enough pieces together to arrest the suspect.
The suspect’s name is not being revealed at this time, and charges are pending as White is still working with the Prosecutor’s Office. White confirmed that the suspect is a known drug dealer, but declined to reveal the suspect’s previous criminal record until charges are finalized.
Detectives are still considering the possibility of other arrests. “I think it took more than one person to do this, but we need more information and evidence before arrests can be made,” he said.
“Now that this dangerous person is off the street, we hope people who have information will come forward.”
Those with information can contact Detective White at (313) 920-2648.
Minneapolis, MN - Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald appeared in court, Dec. 5, for the first evidentiary hearing for the charges she is facing after being the target of a racist attack in June of this year. Prosecutors argued that a statement police extracted from McDonald under adverse conditions after her arrest should be admitted at trial, while McDonald’s attorney argued that the police denied her due process rights by extracting the statement after she had been isolated for hours when she was exhausted and in physical and emotional distress.
In another key development in the case, McDonald announced that she will be pursuing an affirmative defense of self-defense resulting in an accidental death.
The court heard testimony from Sergeant Christopher Gaiters of the Minneapolis Police Department, one of the officers who interrogated McDonald in the early morning hours after her arrest. McDonald was released from the emergency room at the Hennepin County Medical Center just before 4:00 a.m. on June 5, where she received eleven stitches in her cheek, local anesthetic and pain medication. She was subsequently transferred to an interrogation room at City Hall, where her questioning did not begin until 8:10 a.m.
Gaiters testified that he and his partner left McDonald alone in the interrogation cell for approximately three hours before interrogating her at length, repeatedly pushing her to talk more when they were unsatisfied with her account of the attack. Although McDonald stated at the beginning of the interrogation that she was having trouble speaking due to the stitches in her cheek, Gaiters continued to pressure her to make a statement, promising her that, if she told him more, he would tell the County Attorney her side of the story.
“Sergeant Gaiters insisted in court today that he and his partner acted courteously and professionally when interrogating CeCe,” said Jude Ortiz. “But it was apparent to everyone in the courtroom that these niceties only cover the abusive process CeCe was subjected to after surviving a brutal attack by people motivated by white supremacist hate. She was seriously wounded, traumatized from the violence she experienced, exhausted from being kept up all night in a small interrogation cell and had no attorney present. The police didn’t have to be mean to her to force her to give them the statement they wanted to hear - all they had to do was take advantage of the vulnerable state she was in.”
Supporters vow to continue packing the courtroom and spreading the word about the injustice McDonald is facing from the legal system. McDonald’s trial is tentatively scheduled to begin on Jan. 9, 2012.
Over 119 trans people were murdered in the first nine months of 2011 alone.
Now, sadly, we can add Cassidy Vickers to that list.
Vickers was killed by an unknown assailant last night around 10pm, near the intersection of Lexington Avenue and Gower Street in Hollywood. The suspect, said to be a 5’ 9” black man between the ages of 20 aand 30, shot Vickers in the chest with a semi-automatic pistol and ran off. Nearly an hour later, the same assailant is believed to have shot another black trans woman. She, fortunately, survived to contact the police.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) - Discrimination at the hands of a progressive rehabilitation center left a transgender woman in long-term solitary confinement at an all-male supermax prison, the former inmate claims in a new lawsuit filed with help from attorneys working pro bono.
Thirty-two-year-old Sabrina Wilson says she has identified as female since age 14 … and started hormone therapy two years later.
Living in an all-male prison population was “hell” because of transphobia and harassment from other inmates and prison staff, Wilson told Courthouse News in an email sent through her attorneys. She hopes her lawsuit will make the Phoenix House and its director “regret their actions.”
Arrested in March 2008 for drug possession, Wilson accepted a plea agreement to enter a treatment program rather than face prison time. An assistant district attorney arranged for her to receive in-patient treatment at Phoenix House, which Wilson chose because it represented itself as gay- and lesbian-friendly.
On Christmas Eve, the day after her arrival at an induction unit in Brooklyn, the center’s director, Sydney Hargrove, allegedly called Wilson in for a meeting.
”At this meeting, Hargrove suggested to Ms. Wilson that her transgender identity was an issue,” the complaint states. “Hargrove asked Ms. Wilson whether her hair was ‘real.’ When Ms. Wilson told him that she was wearing a wig, Hargrove said, ‘You’re not allowed to wear that in here.’ In fact, at least one other female resident in the program wore different wigs regularly.”
”Upon information and belief, Phoenix House had no official policy for residents on hair or makeup,” the complaint continues.
Hargrove allegedly told counselors not to let Wilson sit with female clients during meetings or wear high heels. The counselors told Wilson that Hargrove was concerned that the shoes would make her trip, but allowed several other clients to wear them “every day.”
After impressing counselors with her progress, Wilson said they made her a resident structure senior coordinator.
Then, in early January 2009, a senior counselor invited Wilson to participate in a new group for women where residents could discuss gender issues associated with addiction. Two or three residents allegedly complained, however, about Wilson’s inclusion.
”Rather than explore the issue, or explain to these residents that their objections were not valid - any more than would be objections based upon an individual’s status as a member of some other protected category, such as race or national origin - the counselor summarily kicked Ms. Wilson out of the group, telling her that she had to leave and could not join the female group,” the complaint states.
Hargrove allegedly told Wilson, “You belong in the male group, and that’s the group you are going to attend. You have to be in the men’s group, period… You should adjust.”
Wilson says she later won over the residents who had voiced their concerns, and they joined a 38-person strong petition to keep her in the program.
Nevertheless, Hargrove allegedly refused to back down. “Your recovery is not an issue here,” he said, according to the complaint.
”We can’t suit your needs as a transgender in our program,” he allegedly added, before kicking her out of the program.
”Ultimately, as a direct and proximate result of this discrimination, Ms. Wilson relapsed into drug use, failed to complete her drug treatment requirement, and was again incarcerated for a period of two and one-half years,” the complaint states.
She served several months of that term at Southport Correctional Facility, an all-male, supermax prison. During her incarceration in early 2011, Wilson filed a pro-se federal complaint against Phoenix House.
A paralegal helped her research and write legal briefs from the prison law library, she told Courthouse News.
In August, she beat the center’s motion to dismiss the case.
Winning the right to sue in federal court was “bittersweet, and I was a little shocked,” Wilson told Courthouse News in an email. “It made me realize I had some rights and that I have a good case.”
Weeks later, she was released from prison, and voluntarily dismissed her case to retain counsel with Housing Works, an AIDS charity that has handled several prominent cases involving transgender bias.
Wilson’s attorney Ignacio Jaureguilorda told Courthouse News that his client did “an absolutely amazing job litigating this pro se,” but she had a stronger case to press in state court.
Wilson demands $2 million in punitive damages and mandatory sensitivity training at Phoenix House.
Housing Works settled a similar case in Rawles v. The Educational Alliance, in which a homeless transgender woman, who was shut out of housing, received an undisclosed award. The nonprofit also agreed to implement systemic changes to benefit transgender residents.