By: Emily Zhang + Ginger Mayo
TRIGGER WARNING: discusses violence against trans* women and violence against people of color.
In light of the rallies at Ferguson, i began to look up stories of minority brutality. There were several stories involving issues of violence against women of color – something that has been relatively untouched on, as the focus mostly lies on men of color. Often, women of color who are affected by police brutality aren’t given any justice – some cases barely make it to mainstream media before being replaced by a flashy new headline. And not surprisingly, there is a huge number of cases similar to Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Timothy Stansbury, Amadou Diallo and the dozens of other unarmed men of color, for women. Have you even heard about Aiyana Stanley-Jones? What about Kendra James? What about Yvette Smith?
The myth is there – there isn’t a national discussion around women of color being victims of police violence. No one focuses on it – and it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Racism and hatred is a girls problem as much as anything else. What I’d like to focus on, however, is violence against trans* women – especially trans* women of color. Here, the focus isn’t solely on police brutality, but also general civilian interactions; police aren’t as much the “perpetrators” – these are hate crimes committed by people, against other people because of their gender.
This June, Tiffany Edwards was shot to death. She was the fourth transgender woman of color to be murdered that month.
According to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, one transgender person is killed every three days. Another info graphic, from glaad.org, shows more shocking statistics:
These percentages are ridiculously high, and reflect the atrocities committed int he name of gender discrimination. While the report may be a bit outdated—from 2011—but the issue is still relevant and isn’t getting better. . The Transgender Violence Tracking Portal is a data collection and analysis project. In the first four months of the year 2014, the portal reports 102 acts of violence against Trans* women.
What may be just as bad as the acts of violence themselves, however, is the media’s coverage of them. A New York Times piece opened with “she was 25 and curvaceous, and she often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment.” The Times said they were trying to capture the woman’s personal story. Later in the article, she was referred to as “the dead man.” Sounds like a classic case of victim blaming, and completely inappropriate use of language to describe a trans* woman – demonstrating that bigotry doesn’t even end at the violence. One article used “transgender men” in its title, while referring to a *transgender woman.
Another headline read “oddly dressed body found in Olmstead township identified.”
“Brutal slaying marks the end of Cleveland’s fight for acceptance.”
These articles are blatantly insulting—transgender women are depicted as “novelties” rather than people, even in the event of tragedy, even when bringing the truth of hatred and the dangers of bigotry to the people. While the sources of violence are undeniably the perpetrators, the media, with its far reaching effects, should be using the right pronouns and right vocabulary instead of belittling and fetishizing the victims of heinous crimes. It is the least the media can do in light of the disastrous content of the piece.
But heres the catch – the fearful culture we create of trans* and LGBTQ inclusive people harms everyone on the gender spectrum. Hate and bigotry due to gender is nothing new – as a girls focused group, we strive to end discrimination based on gender. If you’re transphobic, you are sexist. Denying people their rights and violating them because of their gender is sexist. By allowing Trans* women and men to be brutally murdered and become victims of violence, we’re informing the younger generation that there are only two genders, unless you want to get hurt. We live in a world where gender dictates your grades, your paycheck, your social status, and now your fate.
It is difficult to attempt to write a conclusion for a piece like this. There is no conclusion – the fight is ongoing, and it is difficult. But it’s a fight. Racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia are rampant in our media culture and in our lives. The best way to beat the enemy is to act, and become knowledgeable on the cause. It is everyone’s responsibility, every day, to fight transphobia and the intolerance that is prominent in our society. It is everyone’s job, regardless of their gender, race, or creed, to protect those who don’t fit gender norms and ensure they have the same opportunities as everyone else. Embrace the responsibility, and fight for gender equality. It’s your duty.
Below we cited our sources – and a few more links to help you beat the bigotry and become a true ally.
BECOME AN ALLY