After the incriminating death of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protesters across the world have been continuing their calls to end racial inequality. Police brutality and white-sponsored violence are the areas gaining the most attention from the movement. But there’s a minority within the black community who are not considered as sedulously when it comes to racial violence.
27-year-old Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was described by one of her friends as being a “unique” and “beautiful soul”. 25-year-old Riah Milton was from Liberty Township, Ohio and was shot dead in a robbery attempt.
Both of these women were black and transgender and were very recently killed within 24 hours of each other.
Most of those murdered were black trans women, but it isn’t always easy to work out a completely accurate number of trans people killed; not every trans individual will physically transition or share their identity with others.
Therefore, the exact number of fatalities could be even higher than we currently believe.
Disturbingly, it isn’t uncommon for murdered black trans women to go unreported until they are found dead.
Denali Berries Stuckey was found fatally shot in South Carolina. Bee Love Slater was discovered charred beyond recognition in a burning car in Clewiston, Florida and was identified only by dental records.
It seems as though for the black transgender women who have died at the hands of violence, a culture of abandonment takes centre stage. As horrific as this is, for many black trans women, it’s not a new experience.
In Britain alone, at least 25% of transgender people have faced homelessness at some point in their lives
It’s commonplace for trans people to be kicked out of their homes for vocally identifying with their alternate sex.
In Britain alone, at least 25% of transgender people have faced homelessness at some point in their lives. In the USA, 10% of trans people have been evicted from their homes by landlords and/or higher bodies, simply for being trans.
Being on the street, trans women will try to find money in any way they can. This may mean turning to sex work, which leaves them more susceptible to violence.
In fact, 61% of the transgender people murdered since stringent recording began in 2008 have been sex workers, many of whom were women of colour.
In an interview with BBC journalist Stacey Dooley, a black transgender sex worker in Detroit said:
“I don’t think there’s a transgender woman in Detroit who doesn’t carry a knife, a blade, some kind of mace. You have to risk being robbed, risk the police not taking you seriously, and then we have to worry about all the brutalisation that goes on”.
In Brazil, trans women are often indirectly forced into sex work because of the culture that sexualises transgender identity. Finding an alternative profession once sex has been physically altered is by no means a straight path.
In another interview with Stacey Dooley, trans Rio carnival worker Barbara expressed her sadness at how she must work on the streets at night to keep a roof over her head.
“I once asked a friend whether I could be a cleaning assistant, cleaning the floors. He laughed at me and said, ‘Barbara, you don’t look like a cleaner’ and I said, ‘But I need to work! I need to work!’ We want social equality”.
28% of transgender people in Britain have suffered from domestic abuse at the hands of a partner
Violence also finds black trans women in more homely settings. 28% of transgender people in Britain have suffered from domestic abuse at the hands of a partner.
Earlier this year, a 19-year-old Detroit man shot and killed two gay men and a transgender woman in his living room at a party. Both prosecutors and police believe the three people were targeted due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.
Just last week, the Trump administration finalised a statute that gives healthcare providers the right to refuse treatment for gay and trans people across the US.
This is despite the fact that 39-year-old Alejandra Monocuco, a trans woman in Colombia, died from HIV and COVID-19-related complications after being refused care by paramedics.
It makes one wonder why another person’s right to life is put on the chopping block just because of internalised prejudices from society.
At least 22 trans people were murdered in 2019 and a majority of them were black trans women. We must stand against discrimination and violence towards the LGBTQ community ????#blacklivesmatter #TransLivesMatter #PrideMonth pic.twitter.com/VtLnvynvDB
— Going West Podcast (@goingwestpod) June 1, 2020
The motivations behind the violence aren’t always black and white. There appears to be cognitive dissonance in some situations, as well as cis-normative, heteronormative lines of thinking that are putting black trans women at risk.
Some men who are attracted to trans women copulate with them, feel deep shame and guilt afterwards and violently attack them.
Others possess a strong aversion to black trans women and feel as though they are being mocked when flirted with by a black trans woman or ‘tricked’ when they discover their date is transgender.
Zella Ziona flirted with a young man in front of his friends and was shot dead for it. It’s as if flirtation with or attraction to trans women, in these men’s heads, somehow constitutes an egregious act, and the act of murder is like scrubbing bleach on a blood spot.
There’s a widespread culture of disposability suffocating them and it seems as though the attackers know this. They’re easy prey because they’re severely marginalised
The brutalism these black trans women face is only exacerbated by the poor conviction rate that surrounds transphobic hate crimes.
There’s a widespread culture of disposability suffocating them and it seems as though the attackers know this. They’re easy prey because they’re severely marginalised.
There were no murder charges in an Indonesian case where a trans woman had been burned in her car.
Domingo Ramirez-Cayente killed a trans woman in Dallas, Texas, was released on bond, seized the opportunity and went on the run.
It goes to show there is little punishment for those who kill black transgender women and if we’re saying black lives matter, we need to make sure all black lives are encompassed in that sentiment.
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