Damn. I hate writing this particular column. Each year I hope this will be the year I can write that trans homicides have subsided, that trans violence has taken a downturn and that we no longer need to gauge progress through the measurement of death and beatings. Sadly, that is again not the case in 2011.
The first Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was held in 1999, commemorating the 1998 slaying of Rita Hester. Gwen Smith organized the first memorial event and it’s been a sad, but necessary tradition for the last 13 years.
As stated on the TDOR website, “The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.”
Regardless of the venue — domestic or international — the results for this year show that not only are the figures not improving, but in some places it has become far more dangerous to be trans than ever before. From the end of 2010 through January of 2011, no less than six trans women were slain in Honduras, precipitating world outrage and a response from Human Rights Watch. One woman was apparently both set on fire and stoned. In February, a Malaysian trans woman was found dead after having been beaten with an iron hammer. And, the shooting of a Brazilian trans woman had been caught on surveillance cameras. She had been shot seven times, execution style.
In other countries, there were killings in Mexico, Indonesia, Puerto Rico and Mauritius. We can have no idea as to the real extent, internationally, of transphobia which has turned deadly. In countries with little understanding of trans issues, news of this kind is too often buried along with the victims.
Perhaps the cruelest incident on the international stage occurred in Turkey. This was not the only instance wherein Turkish transphobes were unable to control themselves, but this was by far the most heinous. A trans woman was killed by her family in what has been called an honor killing. According to the report in the Hurriyet Daily News, the victim’s brother, Fevzi Cetin, turned himself into local law enforcement.
“My brother was engaged in travestism. I killed him,” Cetin, 27, told police. “I cleansed my honor.”
This is obviously unconscionable and unacceptable behavior. We need an international consensus to stop this kind of hatred and its consequences.
Here in the U.S., cities across the country have seen brutal and vicious attacks as well. New York was bad, but Washington, D.C., was the absolute worst, with an incident involving metro police. But first, some of the other cities and their incidents: Minneapolis’ first homicide of the year was trans woman Krissy Bates and, in Baltimore, Md., Tyra Trent was strangled to death. As Spring approached, Marcal Camero Tye’s life was cut short after being shot and then dragged several hundred feet.
June brought the shooting death of Nathan Eugene Davis, from Houston, and the summer of 2011 found both Camila Guzman and Rodrigo Ruzman stabbed to death in New York City.
In October, in two separate incidents, two Savannah, Ga., trans women were fatally shot. And, clear across the country in Hayward, Calif., Lucie Parkin was stabbed to death.
But, our nation’s capital proved to be the most dangerous place to be this past summer, especially if you were a trans woman of color. Starting in July and continuing for most of the summer, the violence perpetrated against trans persons ran rampant. Lashai McClean was shot and killed on July 20. In September, Gaurav Gopolan was found beaten and unconscious and subsequently died. Sandwiched in between these two murders were copious incidents of violence, which included the shooting of a trans individual by an off-duty police officer. Another occasion found a trans woman had been shot in the neck.
Trans advocates in the D.C. area were up in arms. The city has made some efforts to remedy the precarious situation as it exists for trans persons, but only time will tell if it really is any safer. Many communities across the nation have passed gender-inclusive legislation, but we haven’t seen any kind of marked diminishment of violence to date. Even as I finalized this column, I heard about an attack on a trans woman in the Mission district in San Francisco.
On Nov. 20, every year, we remember those whose lives were needlessly wasted. For all those across the globe who will not get to see 2012 arrive, for Krissy, Tyra, Camero, Camila. Rodrigo, Lucie, Lashai, Gaurav and all the others who lost their lives this year, let’s make an effort, nationally and internationally, to make this the year trans hatred starts to decline. Each and every one of these individuals had a gift to offer the world. That gift has been lost and there is no excuse or justification. : :
— Comments and corrections can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Robbi Cohn, email email@example.com.