SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Gender-based violence has claimed the life of another young person of color. Ruby Ordenana, also known as Ruby Rodriguez, a 27-year-old Latina transgender woman, was found strangled with knife-like cuts and scars on her arms in the early morning hours of March 16 in San Francisco’s Mission District.
According to friends Ruby Ordenana was "pulling her life together and attending support groups" at the time of her murder.
“Ruby’s murder is not an exception. Gender non-conforming young people — who have often been shut out of employment, housing and safe environments because of their gender identity or expression — are dying at a rate of about one every three months,” said Riki Wilchins, executive director of the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition. “We mourn the tragic loss of yet another young life.”
Ordenana’s body was found in the same area where another transgender woman was beaten and raped last summer. According to friends, Ordenana, a Nicaraguan immigrant who was involved in sex work, was pulling her life together and attending support groups and English language classes.
In a move that outraged the LGBT community less than a week after her murder, Ordenana was called a “psychopath” and a “freak” by nationally syndicated radio host Michael Savage. Savage went on to link the victim and transgender people generally with the Columbine massacre, saying “kids shoot each other there with black raincoats” because it’s near the Biber Clinic of Trinidad, Colarado, “the capital of [sexual reassignment surgery].”
“Virtually the only national commentary on the hate crime slaying of a Latina transgender youth has been Mr. Savage’s name-calling and vituperation,” said Wilchins. “It’s sad that this hateful rhetoric has been one of the only responses of the national media to the death of yet another young victim targeted because of their gender identity.”
Since 1995, over 50 young people aged 30 and under have been violently murdered by assailants who targeted them because they did not fit stereotypes of masculinity or femininity. In December 2006, GenderPAC released the groundbreaking human rights report “50 Under 30: Masculinity and the War on America’s Youth” to document this tide of fatal violence and the key demographics of its victims and their assailants.
In the course of the year that the report was researched and published, three additional murders of victims that fit the “50 Under 30” profile were reported in Memphis, Tenn., Phoenix, Ariz. and Nicetown, Pa.
“These young victims were almost all black or Latina, transgender or gay, biologically male and murdered in attacks of extraordinary violence,” added Wilchins. “Ruby’s murder fits this sad pattern.”
If the investigation of Ordenana’s murder follows the profile of victims in the “50 Under 30” report, it is most likely to go unsolved. Fifty-four percent of the deaths documented in the report remain unsolved, as compared with 31 percent for all homicides nationally.
Ordenana’s murder came the same week as the introduction of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA) into Congress, the long-awaited bill that would give the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“The LLEHCPA is necessary in moving our country toward a society where hate crimes are unacceptable and where everyone’s most basic human rights are protected: life, liberty and the expression of self without fear of violence,” said Wilchins. “We urge Congress to remember its commitment to protect all Americans from bias-motivated violence and to remember Ruby Ordenana,by supporting this bill.”
Murder cases in the “50 Under 30” report that were classified as hate crimes were solved nearly one-and-a-half times more often than those that were not. Seventy-two percent of the report’s cases were not so classified, despite the extremely violent nature of the crimes (many deaths combined stabbing, beating, strangling and shooting).
The annual “FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Report” documents assaults motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability. According to the “50 Under 30” report, if murders based on the victim’s gender identity or expression were included in the data, they would outweigh every other category except race.