Since 2015, there have been five unsolved murder cases of black trans women in Dallas, Texas alone. Their names are Muhlaysia Booker, Chynal Lindsey, Brittany White, Shade Schuler, and a yet to identified woman who was murdered in 2017. Thus far in 2019, trans women have been murdered in Alabama, Tennessee, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and North Carolina. The deaths of these women of course do not account for how many trans women are assaulted, brutalized, and left clinging to life daily across every state in this country. Although many would argue that this is this most progressive time in America, hate crimes have yet to be tempered.
In a 2012 study entitled An Intersectional Analysis of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) People’s Evaluations of Anti-Queer Violence, author and researcher, Doug Meyer, analyzed anti-queer (or homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic) violent firsthand accounts from dozens of in-depth semi-structured interviews. His results may shock some, but as the many mounting murders allude to, this type of violence is very prevalent and ongoing.
Nine self-identified transgender people participated in the study, one transman and seven transwomen. Six were black, two were Latin American, and one was white. Meyer’s intersectional study included questions that pertained to homophobia, racism, sexism, transphobia, and violence motivated by those identities committed against the interviewees. Most reported experiencing verbal and physical assault with just under half reporting sexual assault as well.
Transmen are threatened too
There is not enough research conducted on the experiences transmen have. LGBTQ studies are already few and far between, studies about trans people’s experiences, and transmen in particular, are slim. This further stifles their voices and experiences that are just as valid and worthy of being heard. A 2012 study conducted by Miriam J. Abelson reported that the threat of transphobic violence helped shape the masculinity of many transmen in the San Francisco Bay area. Research indicates that one way cisgendered men practice masculinity is through violence. Many transmen report that there’s a learning curve when acclimating to the violent aspect of masculinity. One of the respondents, a transman named Leo, recalled a time he was riding the bus and was shoved into the wall by a cisgendered man making space to sit down. Leo reported having to shove the man back to get up from his seat and being punched twice in the face because of it.
In 2016, Kayden Clarke, transman with autism, was shot and killed in Arizona by police after allegedly advancing on them with a knife while distressed. This is despite officers having stun guns. Clarke is still misgendered in the ABC article. In 2013, police ended search of Evon Young, a black transman the Milwaukee community suspect was murdered. Ky Peterson, a transman who survived a physical and sexual assault, and killed his attacker in self-defense, is currently serving 20 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
For many, verbal or physical assault and sexual assault are not mutually exclusive. Many of these shared experiences of assault have several threads in common: being called transphobic names and being physically assaulted by the assailant prior to being sexually assaulted. It is a confusing, disgusting, scary mixture of dehumanizing people then exercising power over their bodies. Perhaps even indicative of dissonance within the assailant who may be denying their own attraction while acting on it, to the detriment of many trans individuals.
There are practical solutions to discontinue the victimization of trans people, including due process. According to The Advocate, Peterson says he spent a year in prison without formally being informed of the charges against him. Another practical solution to discontinue the victimization of trans people is to use people’s preferred pronouns, not the pronouns that make you comfortable. Countless trans women and men are misgendered in the media. Using correct pronouns respects and honors the victim, and encourages others to do the same. It’s time journalism and the judicial system are held to a better standard than the bare minimum.