The Color of Numbers

We are in Week 19 of the year 2017 and in that time twelve transpersons of color has been murdered in the United States.

Last Thursday Brenda Bostick, a 59-year-old Black transgender woman, died from an attack on Tuesday April 25th in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. She is at least the twelfth trans person murdered this year in this country alone – all of them women of color, one Native and eleven Black. The others are Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, JoJo Striker, Tiara Richmond, Keke Collier, Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, Jaquarrius Holland, Alphonza Watson, Symone Marie Jones and Chayviss Reed.

Think about it: That is roughly every 10 days. Let me repeat that – Every. 10. Days. We are not even at the halfway point of this year. What does that portend?

According to the Human Rights Campaign there were at least 21 deaths in 2015 and 27 deaths in 2016 of transgender people due to fatal violence.  Bostwick was attacked on April 25th, today is May 9th, fifteen days. By this unfortunate barometer, someone has been attacked – the question is how soon will we be reading – watching – hearing about the murder of yet another transperson of color?

Please note the use of “at least” in all of the numbers given, for they only represent the murders against transpersons that we know of for a certainty. Only the heavens know how many other murders, which have slipped under the radar, have actually occurred.

The victims of this violence are overwhelmingly transgender women of color, who live at the dangerous crossroads of transphobia, racism and sexism which often lead to high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness. And some of these homicides have not yet been identified as hate crimes due to lack of information about the perpetrators or motives.

It has been reported that LGBT+ people are more likely to be targets of hate crimes than any other minority group, and within that group the percentage of these crimes of misogyny, racism and LGBT+ against trans-people are higher and rising.

It is an ironic dichotomy that while this country has becomes more openly accepting, it has undeniably also become more openly hateful and worse more openly violent in its hate.

Are crimes against people of color, women, gays and/or trans new? Of course not. What is news is even with the documented increase of violence against transgender people at an all-time high and potentially rising, national media coverage is severely lacking. I’m minded of the song “Small Circle of Friends”.

“Oh look outside the window, there’s a woman being grabbed
They’ve dragged her to the bushes and now she’s being stabbed
Maybe we should call the cops and try to stop the pain
But Monopoly is so much fun, I’d hate to blow the game
And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody
Outside of a small circle of friends”

While the protest song covered several events as commentary on human apathy, it song was inspired by the case of a woman who was stabbed to death outside her home in Queens, New York, while dozens of her neighbors reportedly ignored her cries for help. That the woman then was presumably CIS and the women now are trans make no damn difference.

The point of it being if it’s not in our own back yard many don’t want/care/are afraid to acknowledge it. I live in NYC, where there is a heavy LGBT+ influence. These deaths were of note here before Brenda Bostick’s murder in Chelsea, a neighborhood of New York City, placed her in our proverbial, if not literal, backyard. That these murders happen anywhere is horrific enough, having one happen here in the city of The Stone Wall Riots, a place pretty much considered the birthplace of gay liberation and LGBT+ rights, it seems especially galling.

In a sequitur/non-sequitur Sunday was the MTV Movie & TV Awards. In an unprecedented move MTV removed genders from all of their categories. Men, Women and Non-Binaries competed against each other for the honors. I’m waiting for the day when the news reports on a male, female or non-binary event it will be reported without the “trans” modifier. Not because I do not want to talk about transgender, but because what happens to a man, a woman, or a non-binary, that the person is also transgender should not matter.

It is an unfortunate fact that stigma based on sexual orientation is still widespread. I know there are documents, commentary etc. covering the myriad psychologies of those who commit these types of crimes.  None of it excuses it. Preaching to the choir, hiding it from the news, not talking about it and/or outright dismissing it, will make these murders go away. Public education, policy change and community efforts are needed to address this. Overcoming these prejudices will take a lot of work. A LOT of work.


Let’s see how others are slicing it up this week:

Slice of Life logo

Slice of Life Writing Tuesday Challenge – Two Writing Teachers

Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge – Week 19

A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.


2 thoughts on “The Color of Numbers

  1. my guess would be not just larger numbers but much, much larger ones because of invisibilization, relabeling, media, community denial and general hushing up. think of domestic and child abuse a generation or less ago. then factor in the socio-cultural conservatism and the current political climate

  2. This is something that I’ve never thought of as far as being that dangerous place between all of the racisms and phobias. Thanks for writing about this and bringing awareness. Your post helps me understand your poetry so much better.

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