Three transgender women of color have been murdered in the past three and a half weeks in Texas, Virginia and Kentucky, according to multiple news outlets.
According to BuzzFeed, Lamia Beard, 31, in Norfolk, Virginia, and Ty Underwood, 24, of Tyler, Texas, were both fatally shot a mere nine days apart on January 17 and January 26.
In addition, a recent report confirms that earlier this month on Jan. 9, another transgender woman, Ms. Edwards*, 20, was shot in killed in a Kentucky motel room. Louisville police believe that 20-year-old Henry Richard Gleaves is a suspect in Edwards’s murder.
And while three murders in one month is extremely high, this type of violence is not new or rare to the transgender community, especially among trans women of color.
A 2013 report conducted by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) found that in 2012 transgender people of color were 2.9 times more likely to experience violence compared to white non-transgender people. Also, transgender women accounted for a whopping 53 percent of murders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected (LGBTQH) community and the Black LGBTQH community accounted for 73 percent of homicides.
It’s also important to point out that what’s also angering LGBTQ advocates is the way that the media has covered these murders. They have consistently gone against the Associated Press Style Guide utilizing police reports and statements that refer to these women as “men,” using mug shots of the dead victims as art for articles and blaming the victims for their own deaths by mentioning past arrests for sex work.
“Language and images really matter when reporting on cases like these and journalists should know better, and yet they are taking their cues from the police who continue to misgender and disrespect,” Monica Roberts, award-winning blogger for TransGriot, told BET.com.
She added, “The media and the police need to work harder in following up and gathering more information on these victims, especially if you are going to need the trans community to help you find the killers, you are going to have be able to actually say that the victim was ‘trans.’”
And yet, one would think that progress is being made thanks to contributions from Orange Is the New Black's Laverne Cox, GLAAD spokesperson and activist Tiq Milan and the Golden Globe-winning comedy Transparent. And yet despite this massive increase in transgender visibility, it’s clear that a lot more work needs to be done.
“These pop culture milestones are really important, but we also have a right wing, whether it’s the politicians or Black churches, who are using fear and smear campaigns that promote transphobia and halt any real progress being made,” Roberts says.
And in a time where Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Marissa Alexander have catapulted the #BlackLivesMatter movement, these recent and past murders emphasize the vital need to include transgender lives into that mission, Myles Brady, the Transgender Outreach Coordinator for Howard Brown Health Center, points out.
“In a time when we are mobilizing and grieving about the death of multiple Black men we must be courageous and step up to the plate and realize that safety is a human right, especially for transgender individuals of color,” he told BET.com.
“Dialogue is the first step. It should be happening at our dinner tables, bus stops, churches, and everywhere within our sphere of influence. We must learn to embrace our differences while challenging our cultural norms that stereotype and oppress those even within our own community.”
Hopefully, that dialogue will be happening sooner rather than later.
Editor’s Note: We have referred to slain transgender woman as Ms. Edwards because her female first name is unknown. And while the original WHAS-ABC report refers to Ms. Edwards with male pronouns and a male name, BET.com follows the AP Style Guide that asks journalists to respect transgender individuals by using their preferred pronouns and names.
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(Photo: Lamie Beard via Facebook)