Normally when we lose a trans person I try to write an article about them, I try to give each of them some time in the spotlight of what I’m writing. I share their name, I spread the story of how they died. This time though it’s a little different.
On Saturday morning I did my normal check through my social media and news messages to catch up on what I missed during the night. I was saddened and shocked to find out that not one, or even two, but three trans women were being reported as muredered.
Elisha Walker, Ashton O’Hara and Kandis Capri.
Elisha Walker, aged 20, went missing last year, her body was found in a ‘crude grave’ in Johnston county, North Carolina.
Ashton O’Hara, aged 25, was found murdered in the same park in Detroit where Amber Monroe was found killed just the week before.
Kandis Capri, aged 35, was shot to death outside of her friends apartment in Phoenix.
Despite the fact that the three women were killed at different times their murders were all reported within the same day, a day that is going to sit heavy for many in the transgender community.
The loss of these three women bring the total number of trans women killed in the United States to sixteen. The total number killed in the US last year was only twelve. We’re at sixteen and we’ve still got almost a third of the year left to go. Things aren’t getting better.
There are many people who are saying that things are getting better for the trans community. Transgender celebrities like Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner are making the headlines and putting a positive face on the community. Laws are changing to make things better for us. We’re becoming seen as regular people, not the ‘monsters’ society used to paint us as. It’s all great for the trans community right now.
Except, it’s not. We’re becoming more visible in the public eye yes, but everything else is getting worse for us. The rate of murder of trans people, and particularly trans people of colour, is rising. We’re facing numerous anti-trans laws and legislation designed to strip us of our rights. We can be openly discriminated against with little to no repercussions for those that do. We have trouble receiving much needed medical care and treatment. We have our history erased in popular culture. We get mocked and attacked in the street.
So what I want to say to cis people right now is this, the trans community is strong, it has to be. We’ll come back from all of these adversities, and come back stronger, but don’t for a second think that things are okay for us right now. We are facing hardships and threats that we don’t deserve. We’re being denied our human rights, we’re facing violence and discrimination. We’re being killed in the streets like animals.
It has to stop, but we can’t stop it on our own. You need to help us. Challenge those who would mock us, vote against anti-trans laws, complain about trans erasure, stand up to those who would wish us harm.
The trans community is made up of fighters, we will fight this, but please don’t let us face it alone.
The average life expectancy of trans people is 38. 38 years old. That’s nothing. Through suicide, ill health and murder our expected time alive is less than 40, the age where apparently ‘life begins’. That statistic terrifies me, and it should terrify you too. It should enrage you. Why do trans people have such short lives? Why are they dieing so young? Because of everything we have to face. Because we’re being murdered.
Media still reports on the murder of trans people whilst mocking us. They use our past names and pronouns, they try to find criminal activity in our past to show that we were not ‘innocent’. They show less concern for our growing murder rate than they do the killing of a lion.
I know I might get some backlash for saying that, everyone seems to love Cecil the Lion, but think about it, really, in the weeks since the whole Cecil thing what have you heard about more in the news or on social media, a lion being killed or the half dozen trans women killed? I’m betting a lot of you are going to have to say the lion if you’re being honest.
And that’s part of the problem, the media is quicker to latch onto a story such as that and run with it for weeks or more than murdered trans women because one is looking at the crimes of an individual and the other is looking at the crimes of a whole community.
It’s easy to look at one person who everyone can vilify and say ‘well I’m better than that, I’m a good person’ than looking at the systematic abuse of a whole minority that would make people have to take a very hard look at their own behaviour.
I’m not saying that everyone is to blame, that would be unfair and untrue, but most of you are playing a part in what the trans community are facing. You might not be the ones shooting us, stabbing us, beating us to death, but you’re adding to the hardships we face.
If you ignore the anti-trans laws being proposed as ‘not your problem’, then you’re helping towards our oppression. If you laugh at a TV show that makes a tranny joke, you’re helping towards our oppression. If you see a trans person being harassed and do nothing, you’re adding to our oppression. If you use the wrong names or pronouns, you’re adding to our oppression.
Don’t be one of those people that makes our lives harder. Don’t be one of those people that helps lower our life expectancy. Change your attitudes, challenge our oppressions, stand as an ally. We’re going to keep on fighting because we don’t have a choice. We’re going to keep being abused, we’re going to keep being killed, but if you help us maybe that can one day stop.