The killing of 23-year-old Dallas transgender woman Muhlaysia Booker has not only reminded people of the fatal hate directed towards the LGBTQ community, but it also resulted in a demand for more protections for Black transgender women.
On May 28, Muhlaysia Booker was honored with a funeral service attended by her closest friends, relatives and strangers from across the country. Booker’s death became a national focal point for transgender activism.
A Tale of Two Cities
Booker, who was fatally shot on May 19, was a prominent figure in the Black transgender community of South Dallas. Many Dallas natives say her death also put a spotlight on the segregated LGBTQ communities within the city.
Although Booker lived in South Dallas, her funeral service was held at the Cathedral of Hope in Oak Lawn, a predominantly white, gay neighborhood in Dallas. While the LGBTQ community inhabits both enclaves, South Dallas, which is a historically Black area, suffers from boarded up businesses while Oak Lawn has a thriving infrastructure.
"Dallas is a tale of two cities," Cathedral of Hope's senior pastor, Reverend Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, told CNN. "Having Muhlaysia Booker's funeral here is another statement to our community and certainly to communities of faith that we must stand for transgender bodies."
Booker’s killing has also put other Black transgender women in the area on high alert, considering police have made no arrests in her case. They also found no connection to the public beating Booker suffered just weeks before she was killed.
LGBTQ activists say the segregation between Oak Lawn and South Dallas has resulted in fewer police and more violence in the predominantly Black neighborhood.
“That area over there, you know exactly where you’re going, you know exactly what you’re getting,” Booker’s friend Robyn Crowe told Buzzfeed News about South Dallas. “It’s an area that don’t have high patrol on the ground because a lot of the girls go in that area because they don’t have to worry about dealing with policemen.”
Although Crowe has seen many unsolved fatal attacks on transgender women before, she hopes the national attention on Booker’s case will create a different outcome.
“This is the first time they can’t tuck it up under the rug,” Crowe told Buzzfeed News.
Living In Fear
With police still investigating Booker’s case, other transgender women in Dallas and around the country have voiced concerns for their own safety.
"We want the same thing as everyone else. We want to be left alone so we can thrive and contribute our talents to the rest of our community," transgender rights activist Monica Roberts told CNN. "But we can't do that if we have to look over our shoulders and worry about getting killed at any given moment."
In response to Booker’s death, the Dallas Police Department asked Abounding Prosperity, a non-profit organization, to have a conversation about the threats facing transgender communities.
During a town hall, the Dallas Police Department pledged to increase sensitivity training for new recruits and said they will aim to improve its understanding of the needs of transgender community.
Police are also investigating if Booker’s killing is connected to the October 2018 fatal shooting of a transgender woman in southeast Dallas and the April stabbing of a transgender woman, who survived.