Trans Violence: Who’s Counting Anyway?
She was rushing me screaming a series of transphobic slurs in my direction; in her hand she held a bottle and I knew that it was the next thing that would be hurled in my direction. The bottle seemed to fly in slow motion as I opened my car door, slammed it shut, turned on the ignition and hit the acceleration. The bottle exploded at the top of the door and by the time I pulled out of the parking spot, she was in the middle of the street chasing my car. All this simply for being transgender.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is an organization dedicated to fighting hate, extremism and protecting the rights of the LGBT community. However, finding statistics on transgender violence is difficult and surprisingly, the SPLC has failed to issue a report on transgender violence since 2003. In 2011, results from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force, were released and as expected, trans people of color [POC] suffer the most discrimination:
- 34 percent of black and 28 percent of Latina and Latino transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents have a household income of less than $10,000 a year.
- Forty-one percent of black and 27 percent of Latina and Latino transgender and gender-nonconforming respondents have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
- When they attempted to access shelters, 40 percent of black respondents and 45 percent of Latina and Latino respondents were denied access altogether.
These statistics are more than 4 years old, but overall, we know today that a person who is transgender is 400 times more likely to be assaulted or murdered than the general population while only making up less than 1.5% of the total population. In the first 31 days of 2015, there have been more than 6 acts of violence in the United States [2 overseas] against a person who is transgender or gender non-conforming. Sadly, February shows no signs of slowing down.
- Fifty-four-year old Brodus Wane Joynes is facing charges ranging from attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, battery, and criminal threats against a transgender couple perpetrated on the MUNI bus during the weekend of January 5th. Samantha Hulsey was stabbed two times in the chest by Joynes who accused both Hulsey and her partner Rae Raucci of gender fraud.
- 20 year old Ms. Edwards was found shot to death at the Fern Valley Motel on January 9th in Louisville Ky. Ms. Edwards died of a single gunshot wound to the chest. She was transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival. WHAS11 in Louisville continued to disrespect the victim by misgendering her and reporting her dead-name, a clear violation of AP Stylebook standards from covering people who are transgender.
- In Norfolk, Virginia, police received a 911 call on the morning of January 17th reporting that someone had been shot in the street. 30 year old Lamia Beard was rushed to the hospital with multiple gun shot wounds and later died as a result of her injuries. Local police were quoted as saying they “don’t have any additional information” and “It’s still a preliminary investigation.”
- Ty Underwood was shot to death on January 26th according to Tyler, Texas police. Underwood’s roommate believes that she was targeted specifically because she was transgender. Police are still investigating, but it appears as though Ms. Underwood was trying to flee her attackers by car and crashed in to a utility pole. No arrests have been made.
- Spokane police are investigating an assault of a transgender woman at a bakery on Friday January 30th. According to the Spokane Human Rights Commission, she was “sent to the hospital with major damage done to the left side of her face.” An eyewitness said to KXLY4 in Spokane that the attackers were yelling slurs, “Her sexuality, her gender, there were a few variations of the f-word,” the witness stated. “It was bad.” There have been no arrests made and her attackers are still at large.
- On January 31, 2015, KABC in Van Nuys, California reports that Ezekiel Dear, 25, turned himself in this week accompanied by his local pastor. He is accused of stabbing his girlfriend [who is transgender], 33 year old Yazmin Vash Payne and setting the apartment on fire. Three transgender woman of color have been murdered in the Los Angeles area in the last 4 months and there appears to be no end in sight for this tragic run of hate crimes.
- Internationally, police in Badhber, Pakistan have reported the death of an unidentified trans woman on January 22, 2015. She had gunshot wounds and there were visible signs of a struggle and violence. According to police, her body was dumped in a different location from where the murder took place- however, police are making no attempts to identify the body and she has been transported to the local funeral home.
- On January 26th, Hande Öncü, a transwoman from Turkey living in Vienna Austria was choked to death by an unidentified person or people who apparently tied her arms and legs behind her back. Hande had left Turkey because of transphobic pressure and her murder in Vienna is considered a hate crime. Thanks to Trans Angeles, her body was flown back to Turkey for burial.
Each of these acts of violence were reported through local media affiliates and disseminated through various blogs and Facebook postings, but since the demise of the Transgender Violence Tracking Portal [TVTP] in early January 2015, gathering information and statistics has become quite labor intensive and in some cases, it takes an emotional toll on the person collating the information.
The TVTP went offline after its founder, Allison Woolbert’s criminal history surfaced online, which included criminal sexual conduct with a minor, and among other things, alleged theft of information from the ‘Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide‘ Project in Europe. According to their website, the TVT Project is a comparative, ongoing qualitative-quantitative research project conducted by Transgender Europe. The project provides an overview of the human rights situation of trans persons in different parts of the world and develops useful data and advocacy tools for international institutions, human rights organizations, the trans movement and the general public.
Prior to the TVTP, Lexie Cannes was the unofficial curator of transviolence having reported on more than 80 trans murders to date. Once the TVTP fell, it left a data hole that has yet to be filled and as a result, has created some animosity towards what was believed to be the original story behind the exposure of Woolbert. So much so that Lexie Cannes penned an open letter to the Transadvocate accusing them of tossing a grenade into the TVTP leaving an unfillable hole.
“What’s your plan to fill it?” Lexie Cannes asks in her open letter, “Can you really drop that bomb and walk away? Maybe your ethical findings were a bit too demoralizing for you to live with. But let me tell you, looking at down this huge hole of yours right now, at this time, is especially demoralizing to me and I have to live with it. God forbid anyone else gets murdered in the next few weeks.”
PlanetTransgender reached out to Lexie Cannes concerning her letter and she replied, “They knew blowing up TVTP was going to shift that trans violence/murder reporting/tracking burden onto other people to deal with. Should they get to walk away scot free? I’m a media outlet just as much as TA. I’ve been able to maintain a bit of social responsibility along with my reporting. Why can’t TA?”
Social responsibility aside, trusted media sources like TransAdvocate have a journalistic code of ethics to adhere to, the SPJ Code of Ethics states, “Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough.” The TransAdvocate reiterated this when they released their Community Responsibility statement on January 8th. “Transparency and evidence-based truths are essential to a robust, empowered and self-aware activist community.”
Is any media outlet responsible for the collateral damage of the investigative reports they print? SPJ code of Ethics also states, “Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.” This is a question only the reader can answer.
Infighting about data recovery aside, the overall scale of violence happening to the transgender community continues to be ignored while the transgender merchandising machine kicks into high gear to exploit the next transgender reality star or dedicated endless column space to speculate about Bruce Jenner’s gender status.
Often the ‘T’ has been silent in the LGBT movement and it’s time the media, and the LGB community as a whole, begins to recognize that their minimization of our community and lack of adequate reporting on violence against us, particularly MTF transgender people of color, is nothing less than acceptance of the violence and a permission slip to continue. Yes, God forbid anyone else gets murdered in the next few weeks, not for the lack of reporting data to track the murders, but for the safety and security of our community and to eliminate the shear sadness in knowing that one more of us won’t be coming home tonight.
I also conducted an interview with Allison Woolbert during the month of October on TheColu.mn, but like all involved, had no knowledge of her background.
The first paragraph of this article was taken from that article to articulate the level of violence I have experienced in my short time [8.5 months] as a woman who is transgender and it’s a story that needs to be told.
Editors note: Planet Transgender supported TVTP but discontinued months prior to the disclosure of Woolberts criminal history.