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Transgender Women Are in a Fight for Their Lives. We Must Join Them.

Photo of trans rights demonstration
Photo of trans rights demonstration
Carl Charles,
Skadden Fellow,
LGBT & HIV Project
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July 28, 2015

In February, we blogged about how seven transgender women had been murdered in the United States. Now, five months later, that number is up to 11. Trans women’s bodies are still under attack.

Last Friday, K.C. Haggard, a 66-year old white transwoman, was murdered while standing on a street corner in Fresno, California. The brutal stabbing was recorded on the security camera footage of a nearby store. K.C. unsuccessfully tried to flag a car down for help, and then pedestrians can be seen walking by her as she lay on the ground dying. Even in suffering and death, transgender women are ignored, stepped over.

Also last week, India Clarke, a 25-year-old Black transwoman living in Tampa, Florida, was found murdered in a park. In reporting on this tragedy, all media outlets in Tampa further dehumanized India by misgendering her, refusing to identify her as a woman and by using her legal name. India’s life was brutally ended before it had even begun, and then in death, she was erased, stigmatized, treated as less than human.

Two weeks ago, Meagan Taylor, a Black transwoman visiting Des Moines, Iowa, was arrested after she and a friend rented a room from a hotel in West Des Moines. Employees of the hotel saw that Meagan was trans and Black and called the police, seemingly claiming that she and her friend were engaging in sex work. Meagan was then arrested on an outstanding warrant for unpaid fines from an arrest when she was 17 years old. The encounter with law enforcement and the humiliation Meagan suffered was because she dared to rent a hotel room while being a Black trans woman.

Trans women’s lives are endangered when renting hotel rooms, driving cars, walking down the street. How much longer will we sit idly by while they are murdered for having the audacity to exist?

This must stop.

Despite this horrific violence, transwomen continue to bravely resist the dehumanization and repression they face each day. Transwomen have resisted a society determined to erase them for decades. They have pushed back and survived and refused to be silenced.

These brave women continue to face down huge systems of oppression each day. Black trans leaders like Cece McDonald and Monica Jones fought back against a criminal legal system that profiled and punished them for their identities. Transwoman Jennicet Gutierrez called attention to the disparate rates of violence experience by undocumented transgender detainees during President Obama’s “LGBT Pride Reception” at the White House this last June.

Trans women like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Caitlyn Jenner continue use their positions in popular culture to speak out against the violence and stigma experienced daily by trans women of color.

We must follow the lead of these amazing women in demanding accountability from a transphobic society that seems bent on eradicating transwomen. We must join our trans sisters in the fight for their right to exist free of violence in our country.

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