Part three in a three part series. See also: Trans-Violence: Why the ‘T’ is silent in LGBT Pt. 1, and Trans-Violence Part 2: Interview with Allison Woolbert
Rita Hester, a transgender woman was murdered in Allston, MA on November 28, 1998. A candlelight vigil was held the following week and the collective outpouring of community anger and grief for her loss became the inspiration for the “Remembering Our Dead” project as well as Transgender Day of Remembrance held annually on November 20th.
Transgender Day of Remembrance [TDoR] was founded by Gwendolyn Ann Smith to memorialize Rita Hester and is a day the transgender community reflects on those in our community that have been killed as a result of transphobia, hate, fear, retaliation, bigotry or trans-panic. In 2010, the day became International Transgender Day of Remembrance and vigils are held in more than 175 cities across 100 countries. TDoR is preceded the week prior by Transgender Awareness Week and was created to help raise awareness of the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming community. This year, Transgender Awareness Week is November 14 – 20.
In her own words, TDoR founder Gwendolyn Ann Smith states, “The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”
According to the Transgender Violence Tracking Portal, Transgender people make up less than 1.5% of the global population, however are 400 time more likely to be assaulted or murdered than the rest of the population. 2014 has been a particularly brutal year for Transgender murders and reminds us that we as a community have a long way to go before we are accepted for who we are.
Compiling a list of people in your own community that have been murdered is an arduous task and although this may not be a complete list, it does accurately reflect the shear hate we encounter for simply being transgender.
- Gypsie Gul: 10/20/14 Found dead in her home in Istanbul, Turkey.
- Mary Joy Anonuevo: 10/21/14 presumed a hate crime as she was stabbed 33 times to death in her place of business in Lucena, Philippines after giving what the assailants demanded. A disgruntled ex-employee is a suspect.
- Michelle Sherman (aka Ashley Sherman or TajShon Sherman): 10/28/14 Her body was found by police near an Indianapolis, Indiana, condo complex with brutal head wounds.
- Keeta Bakhsh: 10/28/14 Reported: Died after being released from a hospital following a beating while in police custody in the Bahawalpur District of Pakistan. The police suspended one officer and promised an investigation that has not yet begun.
- Jennifer Laude: 10/11/14: Died of asphyxiation as a result of drowning. Her body was found in the bathroom with her head in a toilet bowl in Olongapo, Philippines. A U.S. Marine, Scott Pemberton, is being held on suspicion of involvement in the victim’s death.
- Gull do Santos: Reported 10/05/14: Two men on a motorcycle shot her in the face three times while she was walking down a busy street in Brazil.
- Mayang Prasetvo: 10/07/14 Reported: Her husband, Marcus Volke, dismembered, cooked and boiled her body in their apartment in Brisbane, Australia. Volke fled the scene and was later found dead after committing suicide.
- Aniya Parker: 10/02/14: Surveillance video footage shows Aniya being shot in the head on a Los Angeles street after running away from a group of men. No suspects have been identified from the footage.
- Gabriel Mario Duque: 09/18/14: Stoned to death by attackers in Colombia.
- Alenadra Leos: 09/07/14: Shot to death within steps of her home in Memphis, Tennessee. The suspect, Marshall Pegues, was arrested and charged with murder.
- Lele: 07/18/14: Lele was found dead, wrapped in a sheet next to a roadside on the island of Roatán off the Honduran coast. Two suspects were questioned and released.
- Mia Henderson: 07/16/14: The sister of NBA player Reggie Bullock was found by police brutally killed in a Baltimore, Maryland, alley. Mia was the 2nd trans-woman killed in Baltimore MA this year. Kandy Hall being the first.
- Yaz’min Shancez: 06/19/14: Found burned to death in Ft. Meyers, Florida. Police later arrested Terry Lynn Brady and charged him with the crime.
- Tiffany Edwards: 06/27/14: Tiffany was gunned down in the middle of the street in Cincinnati, Ohio and was found by a sanitation worker. Quamar Edwards (no relation) turned himself in after an arrest warrant was issued. Tiffany was the 4th Trans woman murdered in a year in Ohio. Cemia Dove 11/08/13, Betty Skinner 12/05/13 and Nicole Kidd-Stergis 12/09/13 were the previous three.
- Zoraida Reyes: 06/12/14: Found dead in a parking lot in Santa Ana, California. Randy Lee Parkerson was charged with felony murder.
- Kandy Hall: 06/09/14 Reported: Murder: Found brutally murdered in a field in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Cagla Joker: 04/25/14 Reported: Gunned down by assailants in Istanbul, Turkey. Two suspects were arrested.
- Sevda Basar: 02/22/14 Reported: Found buried on the land of her boyfriend’s place of employment near Antep, Turkey, Seveda died from a gunshot wound to the chest. Ethem Orhan confessed to the killing
- Prince Joe: 01/16/14 Reported: Stabbed to death in Belize after being held up at knife point and giving the attackers everything they wanted. Video of the robbery has not led to identifying suspects.
It’s unclear as to why violence against the transgender community continues to rise and one can only speculate what the core reason may be, but as the violence perpetrated against us become more clear, it appears most are motivated by hate, bigotry and a general misunderstanding of who we are.
The creator of the Transgender Violence Tracking Portal stated in a recent interview “Many who are in our community have not had good relationships with the police. Often time the harassment and outright assaults by law enforcement have been just as significant as those who perpetrate violence against us.”
In Minneapolis, the cry of unfair treatment was addressed at the Minneapolis Trans Equity Summit in September. During a break-out session titled ‘Police Relations’, the meeting quickly broke down and the officer and city liaison attending the session found themselves overwhelmed by approximately 30 attendees that sought an answer to the question: Why are you treating us this way?
As a result of the communication breakdown at the Equity Summit, The Minneapolis Police Department’s Leadership and Organizational Development Division, along with members of the Transgender community, will actively study and develop training materials and best policy practices that will hopefully lead to an improved working relationship and interaction between the Police Department and the Trans Community.
We are repeatedly told that the transgender community is where the LGB community was 20 years ago and with time, our right to be recognized and protected under the law will be fulfilled. But some of us do not have 20 years to wait and according to current crime statistics, tomorrow may be too late for some.