Chicago trans women of colour protest violence, discrimination

Approximately 160 activists gathered in Chicago to protest the violence and discrimination trans women, and especially trans women of colour, have to deal with. Particularly in the light of Trump’s inflammatory campaign, hate crimes against the QUILTBAG community have increased in many areas of the world, even outside the United States. With another murder in Chicago, the number of trans women murdered in the United States has already exceeded the previous year’s count.

It was a rare public moment for a group long relegated to society’s margins: These transgender women of color, along with their supporters, said the act of civil disobedience was intended to shed light on the violence they fear because of the combination of their gender identity and skin color — what they consider a scary confluence of transphobia and racism.

“We face violence within our own family, when we walk outside our doors, when we actually apply for jobs,” said organizer LaSaia Wade, 29, of the Chicago-based group TGNC Collective. “We deal with oppression within our own community, we also deal with systemic racism. … So it’s a double negative.”

The night started with a vigil mourning the recent killing of a local black transgender woman. The body of T.T. Saffore, 28, was found with her throat slit and multiple stab wounds, lying near train tracks in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. While a knife was discovered nearby, police say no one has been arrested in the Sept. 11 homicide.

Nationally, at least 21 transgender people have been fatally shot, stabbed or killed by other violent means so far this year, according to The Advocate, a publication and news site dedicated to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. At least 16 were transgender women, and the majority were women of color, according to the Washington, D.C.-basedHuman Rights Campaign.

Five days after Saffore was killed, a black transgender woman was shot to death in Baltimore.

“At a time when transgender people are finally gaining visibility and advocates are forcing our country to confront systemic violence against people of color, transgender women of color are facing an epidemic of violence that occurs at the intersections of racism, sexism and transphobia — issues that advocates can no longer afford to address separately,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in the organization’s 2015 report on anti-transgender violence.

Three jurisdictions, all under Western democracies, all reporting elevated levels of hate motivated crime against the QUILTBAG community. It just goes to show you that nationalism is linked to so many types of supremacy, and why most of us Queers are justifiably suspicious anytime reactionary lobbies try to claim to protect us against “foreign threats:” The moment we accept that there is one correct way to “American” is the moment anything perceived as deviant, including gender & sexual diversity, becomes a threat. Why on dog’s green Earth would we accept or promote this premise?



Killed for being trans, but it’s not a hate crime?

Content Notice: transmisogyny, graphic violence.

Another trans woman murdered in her own home. The attacker repeatedly called her the devil prior to killing her. Killed for the crime of existing while trans, and the police have not classified it as a hate crime.

Columbus, Ohio police are investigating the death of 28-year-old Rae’Lynn Thomas, who was shot and killed by her mother’s ex-boyfriend, who lived with her family at the time, according to WBNS.

Thomas’ mother, Renee Thomas, shared her daughter’s final words with local news:

“Mom, please please don’t leave me. Mom, I’m dying,” she said. “Mom, I love you. Tell my sisters and my brother I love them. Tell my family I love them. Mom, I’m dying, I’m dying, please don’t leave me.”

Renee Thomas said her daughter transitioned 10 years ago. Rae’Lynn’s aunt, Shannon Thomas, said Rae’Lynn was a performer who was dedicated to fashion.

According to Renee Thomas, her ex James Allen Byrd was transphobic and often called Rae’Lynn “the devil.” Renee Thomas says Byrd repeated the word before shooting Rae’Lynn in their Columbus home.

“He was in the bedroom and he just came around the corner and shot my [daughter],” she said. After two shots, Byrd grabbed Rae’Lynn and began beating her.

“He took a light away from all of us that we can’t get back,” Shannon Thomas said to WBNS. “And he needs to pay. He needs to pay.”

At least five transgender women have been killed in the past two months. On Wednesday, Mic reported that 36-year-old Erykah Tijerina was killed in El Paso, Texas. In July, three transgender women were killed in the United States: Washington, D.C.’s  Deeniquia Dodds, Mississippi’s Dee Whigham and Cleveland’s Skye Mockabee. Mockabee and Thomas’s death happened within weeks of each other in the same state — Ohio.

Local Ohio community organizers have expressed their condolences and plan to take action.

“Our hearts, minds and condolences are with the family, friends, and community of Rae’Lynn in this time of tragedy,” Aaron Eckhardt, training and technical assistance director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, said in a statement.

“We must continue to come together as a broad community of support to say hate has no home in Ohio, hate has no home anywhere,” Echardt added.

An official from New York City’s Anti-Violence Project said this is the 18th confirmed killing of a transgender or gender nonconforming person in 2016.

Of the 24 reported hate violence homicides of LGBTQ people in 2015, 67% were transgender or gender nonconforming, according to the NCAVP‘s annual report on hate violence. Thirteen of the 24 — 54% of those killed — were trans women of color.

Both Rae’Lynn’s mother and aunt want to see Byrd spend his life in jail.

“I want to see him go to jail forever,” Shannon Thomas said.

“Life in prison. Spend your life in prison. That’s what you do,” Renee Thomas said. “I don’t want you to spend your life with your family.”

Byrd, 53, is being held on a $2 million bond and faces a murder charge for Rae’Lynn’s death, which is not being investigated as a hate crime.

Say her name. Rae’Lynn.


Fuck your blue lives, #SayHerName

White privilege confession time: In my budding years as a soon-to-be social justice advocate, I was a bit wrapped up in my own problems to really step outside of my shell and listen to black activists as they described repeated patterns of police brutality. Then Ferguson happened. I didn’t quite hit #BLM mode right away, but I started to pay attention, and by now I have seen the absurd double standard enough to securely say “fuck you in your fucking idiotic skull” if you’re a Blue Lives Matter type.

A five year-old. Police shot a five year-old, while he was in his mother’s arms.

Three officers with the Baltimore County police arrived at Korryn Gaines’s apartment around 9:20 a.m. on Monday to serve warrants to her as well as a man who also resided there.

The man was wanted on an assault charge, while Gaines, 23, had an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court after a traffic violation in March.

According to police, no one responded to 10 minutes of door knocking, even though they could hear several people inside. When officers obtained a key to the apartment, they found Gaines sitting on the floor — her 5-year-old son was wrapped in one of her arms. In her other hand was a shotgun.

Seems like the endless patience police have for deescalation vanishes in a puff of smoke when the shooter is black.

If that kid were white, the negotiations would’ve lasted for days.

#BlackLivesMatter. #SayHerName.



#SayHerName: Another trans woman murdered

A black trans woman by the name of Deeniquia Dodds was shot on the 4th of July in Washington D.C. She passed away on Thursday after 10 days in the hospital.

The devastating trend continues: Today, NBC News reported that Black trans woman Deeniquia Dodds was shot in Washington D.C. on the fourth of July. Deeniquia, known as “Dee Dee” to her friends, was taken to the hospital where she was kept alive on life support for ten days before passing away yesterday. According to Dee Dee’s Facebook page, she attended Woodson High School in the greater D.C. area and graduated in 2012. She was 22 years old.

Autostraddle’s trans editor, Mey Valdivia Rude, stated better than I ever could why we need to double down on our protests, our activism for trans folk and especially trans women of colour:

Things are supposed to be getting better. Cis people are noticing us and writing about us and making TV shows and movies about us. But really it just seems like things are getting better for our “allies.” Trans people, mostly trans women of color, and again, mostly Black trans women who sleep with men, are being murdered at a higher rate than any measured year before. It’s hard to look at all the articles being written about how this is our time and our moment in history and not explode in anger when so many of our Black and Brown sisters and elders aren’t being allowed to see this “historic moment” happen by the same cis society that is supposedly giving us this moment right now. Trans people, trans women of color, Black trans women need to be protected, prioritized and not fucking murdered.

I strongly recommend additional reading here, from this trans WoC.

Remember her name.


Kimberlé Crenshaw on anti-black police brutality

Kimberlé Crenshaw, perhaps best known for her work responding to second-wave white feminism with work we now recognize as intersectionality (a term she is credited with coining), throws her hat in the ring on anti-black police brutality:

When she speaks at public meetings, Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw has a trick. She asks everyone to stand up until they hear an unfamiliar name. She then reads the names of unarmed black men and boys whose deaths ignited the Black Lives Matter movement; names such as Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin. Her audience are informed and interested in civil rights so “virtually no one will sit down”, Crenshaw says approvingly. “Then I say the names of Natasha McKenna, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux, Aura Rosser, Maya Hall. By the time I get to the third name, almost everyone has sat down. By the fifth, the only people standing are those working on our campaign.”

The campaign, #SayHerName, was created to raise awareness about the number of women and girls that are killed by law enforcement officers. For Crenshaw – who coined the term “intersectionality” in the 1980s to describe the way different forms of discrimination overlap and compound each other – it is a brutal illustration of how racism and sexism play out on black women’s bodies.

Anderson is far from alone. Yvette Smith was killed in her own home after the police arrived to investigate a domestic disturbance complaint between two men. Smith, a single mother of two, was shot in the head when she opened the door for the officers. The police first alleged that Smith had a gun, then retracted the claim. The former Texas police deputy who killed Smith was cleared of her murder.

A year ago, Crenshaw, along with lawyer Andrea Ritchie,released a report looking at almost 70 such cases, many taking place in the past three years. But there could be many more. Until recently – when the Guardian launched its database, the Counted – the US had no comprehensive record of those killed by police officers. “More black people [in total] are killed – disproportionately to their rate in the population – and although the numbers are hard to assess, the reality is that black women are vulnerable to the same justifications used for killing black men,” says Crenshaw

One case that did catch the media and the public’s attention was the death of Sandra Bland. Bland was pulled over for failing to use her indicator when she changed lanes. A video showed her being pinned to the ground and surrounded by officers after being charged with assault. She can be heard asking why her head is slammed on to the pavement. Three days later, she was found dead in a police cell.

However, unless the way women are killed is taken into account, says Crenshaw, we can’t “broaden our understanding of vulnerability to state violence and what do we need to do about it”. There are many cases, for instance, where women are killed by police who arrive as first responders to emergency calls for mental health crises. “Disability – emotional, physical and mental – is one of the biggest risk factors for being killed by the police, but it is relatively suppressed in the conversation about police violence,” she points out.

Crenshaw points out that #SayHerName also serves to highlight other forms of state violence that impact women. Crenshaw cites the case of Daniel Holtzclaw, an Oklahoma police officer convicted of 18 of 36 charges of sexual assault against black women. Despite the number of women involved, the case was barely covered in the media. There is little public discussion of sexual abuse by police officers, Crenshaw says, although “according to some reports, they are the second most-common report of police abuse”.

The conversation around authoritarian behaviour patterns has started to reveal correlations between domestic violence and racist violence. Crenshaw’s work appears to corroborate this. In other words, if someone is willing to engage in dehumanizing tactics to justify violence against one particular demographic, it appears to be justified in assuming they will not stop with their first target.

The numbers are still being investigated in this idea of linking violent acts against one group and prejudice against another group but the idea has been around for a few years, decades even, with the core sentiment present in “First they came…

Perhaps better history lessons are needed.


Edit: Oops! Forgot to actually link Crenshaw’s interview. Fixed.