In the past month, two trans women were violently killed in Dallas. On June 1, the body of 26 year old Chynal Lindsay was recovered from White Rock Lake in northeastern Dallas. On May 18, 23 year old Muhlaysia Booker was shot and killed in Dallas. Both were trans women, and both were Black. The Dallas police have sought help from the FBI after two murders of Black transgender women in just two weeks. It is part of a broader pattern of violence against Black trans women in Dallas, including a stabbing in April and the murder of Brittany White in October 2018.
The deaths of these women have brought attention to the epidemic of violence against the transgender community. This violence disproportionately impacts trans women of color. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 26 transgender people suffered violent deaths in the United States in 2018. The majority of the victims were Black transgender women. To date in 2019, 7 transgender people have been violently killed — and every victim has been a Black trans woman. The HRC reports that trans women of color make up 4 out of 5 anti-trans homicides.
There are many reasons why trans women may be at greater risk for violence. In some cases, anti-transgender bias is the cause. This may have been what happened to Muhlaysia Booker, who was viciously attacked in April 2019 before being shot and killed in May. In the video of her assault, which was posted online, at least one onlooker could be heard yelling a homophobic slur. Because Texas does not include gender identity in its hate crime statute, the man arrested for the crime does not face hate crime charges.
In other situations, the victim’s transgender status may put them at risk in other ways. Many transgender women and men have difficulty finding work, and may be rejected by family or friends. For this reason, they may be forced into unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and/or survival sex work. These situations can then put them at greater risk for violence.
While homophobia and transphobia is a problem throughout our society, within the LGBTQ community, Black transgender women are the most likely to experience violence. Anti-trans violence is a form of gender-based violence, as it is often based on a belief that a person is not behaving or acting as their attacker believes that a man or a woman should. Trans women and men are attacked because of their gender identity. That is exactly the type of gender-based violence that we must work to end in our society in order to achieve true equality.
This Pride month, it isn’t enough to waive a rainbow flag or buy merchandise branded with rainbows. We must work together to protect our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters from violence. In particular, this means standing up for trans women of color who are being attacked and killed at an alarming rate.
We can do this in a number of ways. First, ask the transgender and nonbinary people in your life what support they need. Checking in with your loved ones is a simple way to make sure that they are getting what they need. Second, reach out to organizations in your community that offer support to trans women and men (such as SisTers PGH) to see how you can be part of the fight. Alternatively, donate or volunteer to organizations like Blackburn Center that provide services to transgender women and men and all other victims of violence and crime in Westmoreland County. Third, speak up — if your friends or family make transphobic jokes or comments, call them out on it. You can also contact your elected officials and candidates for office to ask how they plan to respond to violence against transgender people.
We believe that everyone deserves to live free from violence. We ask you to join us in making our mission a reality.