News & Politics

Five Transgender Women of Color Have Been Murdered in the Past Five Weeks

Anti-trans violence is killing young black and Latina woman across the country.

We are just five full weeks into 2015, and in that short time, there have been five murders of transgender women of color. These young women’s deaths have been made even more tragic through mainstream media’s silence. In cases when news outlets have taken notice, misgendering of the victims—that is, wrongly identifying them as male—has been another problem. In response, trans and LGBT activists and allies have taken to the streets in protest.

The most recent victim, Penny Proud, was a 21-year-old black trans woman from New Orleans. Proud was found shot to death on February 10; her killer remains unidentified. The other victims include Lamia Beard, age 30, a black trans woman from Virginia; Ty Underwood, age 24, a black trans woman from Texas; Yazmin Vash Payne, age 33, a black trans woman from Los Angeles; and Taja DeJesus, age 36, a Latina trans woman from San Francisco.

On Tuesday, four San Francisco city supervisors ended a weekly meeting early to give 20 minutes of recognition to DeJesus and other trans women who were recently murdered. The local legislators, who Fusion identified as “[r]epresenting historically black, Latino, Chinese-American and gay neighborhoods,” urged swift action to support and protect the trans community.

The same day, Bay Area trans activists staged a die-in in front of San Francisco City Hall. The rally was organized to raise awareness about violence against trans women, especially those of color, and to bring media attention to the slayings. In the midst of the protest, dubbed Trans Liberation Tuesday and organized under the hashtag #TurnUp4TransPeople, those present were suddenly alerted to the tragic news of Proud’s murder.

Violence against trans women of color is an underreported and often unrecognized epidemic that should command nationwide attention. Following a year in which there was more discussion of transgender issues than ever before—with Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera rising to mainstream recognition—the issue still remains largely unaddressed.

As Autostraddle, a feminist LGBT site reports, "The National Coalition of Anti-Violence [found] that almost 90% of LGBTQ homicide victims in 2013 were people of color, 72% were transgender women, and 67% were trans women of color. In 2014, twelve out of the fourteen trans women of color murdered in the United States were black."

BlackLivesMatter.com recognizes that, “the average life expectancy for a black trangender woman is 35 years.”

Vanessa Rochelle, a trans activist who spoke at the San Francisco rally, had perhaps the most heartbreaking statement of day, as much for its echoes of tragedy as its underlying truth. “Remember my face,” Rochelle said, according to the Daily Dot. “Because the statistics will tell you that in the next decade, I will have died violently.” 

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

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