Early on the morning of April 28th, Amber Nicole, a trans woman, was attacked and assaulted outside a popular rooftop bar in LoDo, Denver. Weeks before in Dallas, MuhLaysia Booker, a black trans woman, was threatened at gunpoint to pay for damages of a vehicle accident on the spot. She was then almost beaten to death in front of a group of people after a bystander offered $200 to the driver to hurt her.
According to the National Center of Transgender Equality, transgender folks face extraordinary levels of violence, especially trans women and trans femmes. The past several years have seen a steady increase in anti-trans violence towards trans women, specifically trans women of color. In 2018, The Human Rights Campaign reported that at least 26* transgender people were murdered in the U.S., most of whom were black women (*this number doesn’t include those whose lives weren’t reported as trans). FORGE states that over half of these victims were victims of domestic or intimate partner violence, meaning the majority of anti-trans violence is not a random incident but a hate crime.
Those who attack us are more often than not our family members or our partners. These are people who vote, pay their taxes, and give money to the homeless. They shovel your driveway in the winter; they mow your lawn in the summer. They have graduated from high school and college. They are your bankers, your politicians, your neighbors in the grocery aisle. They serve you drinks and make your food when you go out to eat. They help older folks cross the street, and they donate regularly to non-profits. They recycle, they’re vegans, they probably voted for Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, and still they attack and sometimes kill trans women and nonbinary femmes.
They are not strangers; they are not suffering from mental health issues; they are not homeless, they are NOT being initiated into gangs, a recent idea I’ve heard thrown around.
The people who hurt us are generally regular ‘Joes’ who just happened to be attracted to and desire the companionship of a trans woman or nonbinary femmes.
These are people who, just like the rest of us living in this cisnormative society, have been conditioned to believe that being transamorous is something to be ashamed of.
Straight, cisgender men who chase after trans women and nonbinary femmes often struggle with their desires, resulting in our relations frequently happening behind closed doors. Their affinity for trans women and nonbinary femmes almost always comes to a halt at lust and sexual gratification, because to actually have a relationship with a trans person is to risk potential violence and vitriol against themselves. Society continues to question the sexual orientation and gender identity of straight, heterosexual men who date trans women and femmes, which only furthers the narrative that our identities are not real.
About a month after Muhlaysia Booker was attacked, she was found dead; police have reported no link between her attack and her death. Within the same week, Claire Legato, a black trans women, died in Cleveland after being shot a month prior, and Michelle Washington was lost to anti-trans and gun violence as well.
It is necessary to understand that while you may not see the violence happening towards trans people, it is happening, and specifically it is happening towards trans black women and trans women of color. That, while the rights of the trans community continue to be rescinded, it is still those most vulnerable among us who are experiencing the brunt of that violence. In 2019, there have been five lives lost to anti-trans violence, all of whom were black, trans women.
Amber Nicole is fortunately alive to tell her story, but we know many in our community will not have that opportunity. How much louder must we scream until we are heard? How many more lives will be lost until you do something about it?
Photo by Jillian Bryan