I did not want to write about murder, again. I want to write about empowering and inspirational news, like transgender women taking on roles in politics, or movies, or publishing poetry, or lingerie modelling.
But the disturbing wave of violence against and murder of transgender women, almost always transgender women of color, has been permeating the news lately.
The headlines show a rare slaying in Australia, where a Filipina tourist was found killed. The beautiful and beloved Mhelody Polan Bruno, 25, was the breadwinner for her family back in the Philippines, as well as active in LGBTQ rights.
Closer to home, a Latina transgender woman in Texas is in critical condition after surviving a beating and multiple gunshot wounds. The suspect followed her in his car, beating and shooting her in a bus shelter. Domingo Ramirez-Cavente was arrested and is being charged with a hate crime.
In Florida, transwoman of color Bee Love Slater was found in the trunk of a burning car. Her best friend said she received threats the day she was murdered, and wanted to flee town to safety. Police are on the hunt for Jamson Richemon, who is also wanted for questioning in connection with another murder.
The New York Times recently ran a story about this year’s spate of violence against black trans women, suggesting murder of transgender women is becoming an epidemic. The American Medical Association has also called it an epidemic. As of this writing, eighteen transgender women have been murdered in 2019, that we know of. In 2018, there were 26 killings. Most victims are black.
What can we do? We can’t just keep reading the news and mourning.
Murder is an ugly reality for men, women, and trans people—all humans are at risk of murder, and have been since the earliest known societies. Transgender women and women are actually far less likely to be murdered than men are, and transgender women are not disproportionaly represented among murder victims. Of course trans and cis women ARE much more vulnerable than men.
Stand with law enforcement and human rights organizations.
While trans women aren’t disproportionately victims of murder, their murders ARE disproportionately unsolved. Almost half of trans killings turn up empty handed. Encourage and support those investigating the murders of our sisters, and stand with trans-rights organizations that often contribute to justice.
We need more LGBTQ outreach to communities of color.
Most murder victims are killed by someone of their own cultural background, whether they are white, black, Hispanic, Indigenous, or Asian. This is no exception among trans women. The vast majority of trans murder victims are black, and most of the convicted killers are too. We need to support communities of color in education and outreach about transgender issues.
Love and romance is dangerous for women.
Just as cis women are often in danger among their own lovers, so are transgender women. Many trans women are killed by transphobia, but many are killed for the classic reasons men kill women—jealousy, sex, and rage. Thank you to those of you guys who are providing transgender women with safe and loving dates, who can handle your desire and jealousy.
Because sex workers and anyone involved in the use or trade of illegal drugs and crime are at greater risk of violence, it is important that trans women have access to jobs, mental health care, and family support in order to avoid these traps that lead to greater risk of harm.