As if the Twin Cities did not have enough to grieve, the Black trans community and the public is reeling over a group attack on a Black trans woman that took place Monday (June 1) night in St. Paul, Minn.
The incident was recorded in a two-minute viral video showing a trans woman known as Iyanna Dior, 21, being violently punched, kicked and pushed and having her hair pulled in a convenience store by multiple Black men and a couple of women. The attack appears to have taken place Monday night on the East Side of St. Paul, one week after police in nearby Minneapolis kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, killing him.
Police in St. Paul told BET.com that they were investigating the incident after being flagged about the video circulating on social media. The incident took place outside of the Sanas Market convenience store, police said. Some on social media have suggested that events may have been ignited over a fender bender, but police said they could not immediately find a police report confirming that claim.
An employee who answered the phone at Sanas Market said that the manager who was on duty at the time of the incident was not around.
Dior, who did not immediately respond to inquiries from BET.com, has posted several details related to what happened that night on her Facebook page.
“The whole side of my face is literally swollen, it hurts so bad, the whole side of my face from here to here it’s really swollen, it hurts,” she posted with a photo of her rubbing the right side of her face.
She added that she has knots on her forehead and that her right arm is swollen.
In another post Tuesday night she wrote, “I just need some time to process everything that’s going on. Thanks to everyone reaching out making sure I’m OK.”
The incident unleashed a flood of support not only from the public, but in particular from the Black trans community. Many members of the community noted that the assailants seen in the video are Black, and they called for better understanding and support for trans people from the Black community at large.
As it is, the Black trans community nationally has been mourning not only George Floyd, but also Tony McDade, a Black trans man fatally shot under questionable circumstances by police in Tallahassee, Fla., on May 27. Details around the death are fuzzy and the trans community is calling for a full investigation.
The Trans People of Color Coalition and other organizations held an online event on Wednesday night honoring the memory of McDade. Based in Washington, D.C, the group is investigating Dior’s situation and is figuring out how to advocate on her behalf, executive director Brenden Watts told BET.com. While it is rarely reported, trans people are attacked daily, he said.
“Black trans women definitely get it the worst,” Watts said. “I think it’s just ignorance of what gender identity is and I think socially we have been programmed to think a certain way and that progression has slowed down.”
Kylar Broadus, coalition founder, said there is much to be done to promote better understanding and support of the Black trans community.
"Being Black and trans is a double burden, it's lethal sadly. Black people can be transphobic. LGBTQ+ people can be very racist. Yet, we are discriminated against because we're Black," Broadus told BET.com. "In some cases, people don't or choose not to blend into society's traditional gender roles. These people are still human and deserve to be alive."
Janet Mock, director of television's Pose, also took to her Instagram account to lend support to Dior. As a Black trans woman, Mock issued a lengthy message of support to Dior bolstering her spirits and letting her know she is not alone.
“To be brutally attacked and called out your name while a crowd of your brothers and siblings look on....I’m so sorry sis,” wrote Mock. “My heart aches for you. But we got you sis. You’re gonna heal. You rest now. Let us carry what you can’t right now. You deserve rest and peace.”
Charlii Clark, a Black trans woman living in Key West, Fla., said she was deeply saddened by the video of Dior being beaten when she logged onto Instagram Tuesday. She said she could not believe what she was seeing.
Clark, 21, said she began transitioning when she was 16 and she has faced ostracism and harassment in the process. When the performer and activist saw what happened to Dior, she contacted other members of the Black trans community and now OutFront Minnesota, a Minneapolis organization that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community, is involved. The organization suggests that donations be paid to Dior through her Cash App at $lyannaDIO.
Like many across the world, Clark said her heart breaks at the George Floyd situation, but that she hopes people can come together in their support for both Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter.
“All of our voices combined can recollect our broken pieces back to a more stable society so we can enter into a new version of us,” she said.
Melanie Eversley is an independent journalist based in New York City has covered race and politics for USA Today and the Washington bureaus of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Detroit Free Press. She is a 2020 John Jay Criminal Justice Reporting Fellow.