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According to records compiled by the Human Rights Campaign, Between 2015 and 2019, 118 transgender people were murdered in the United States. In 2020, 17 murders have been reported. Of the previously reported number, only 4 cases appear to have been anti-trans motivated. So far in 2020 it appears only 1 fits this description. The claim that the murder of trans people is always a hate crime undermines the real issues at hand.
In 2016, Kedarie Johnson, a gender-fluid 16-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa, was picked up by two men, Jaron Purham and Jorge Sanders-Galvez. Johnson was dressed as a woman, and the two men intended to have sex with him. They murdered him once they discovered he was male. Both received life in prison. Dee Whigham, a 25-year-old transgender woman from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, met Dwanya Hickerson, 21, with whom Whigham had an online relationship. Once Hickerson discovered Whigham was transgender, he stabbed Whigham 119 times. Hickerson has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
An attempted serial killer named Denzell Thomas, 24, targeted trans women in Birmingham, Alabama, and murdered Jazz Alford, a 30-year-old trans woman. He also shot another trans woman who survived. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. In 2019, Devon Robinson, 18, in Detroit, Michigan, shot five people at a house party, including two gay men and one trans woman, Paris Cameron, 20. In his trial, he stated he shot multiple people while attempting to target LGBT individuals.
The recent case of Selena Reyes-Hernandez, a transwoman murdered in Chicago, demonstrates a common scenario of violence towards transwomen. Reyes-Hernandez, 37, in what appears to have been a hook up of some sort, met with 18-year-old high school student, Orlando Perez. During their encounter Perez discovered Reyes-Hernandez was male, left and then returned to shoot her multiple times. He left again and then returned once more to shoot several bullets into her lifeless body. He has been arrested and has confessed to the crime.
A transgender activist on twitter stated, “We are learning that Selena’s family didn’t want to recognize or acknowledge their trans daughter. That’s why we are having such a hard time getting info on her. The family already buried her in Mexico under the dead name. Even in death, transphobia still continues.” Which was retweeted by the Transgender Law Center, indicating the victim had not transitioned but was, at least at the time of the murder, living as a woman.
Reports of the 18-year-old killer in court indicate no sense of remorse, indicating he must have felt justified in his actions. An issue the LGBT left absolutely refuses to address is the danger both gay men and trans women face when engaging in deception during sexual encounters with straight men. While broadly denounced as “hate” or “transphobia” the reality is, the risk of violence significantly increases in these scenarios and as the law already criminalizes violence and murder, no additional action can be made to protect LGBT from this threat, outside of LGBT itself discouraging the practice.
Another murder which may or may not be hate related is of Dominique Rem’mie Fells, a 27 year old transwoman found dead in Philadelphia, PA. Although the majority of reports state her body had been dismembered with her lower legs cut off, earlier reports indicate this may have been the result of a train accident. She was assaulted, possibly by a male acquaintance she was seen fighting with a few days prior, and she suffered trauma to her face and head. A suspect has been identified by police in the ongoing investigation.
Unfortunately, the HRC and the above report continue to perpetuate the idea that any death of a transgender person must be the result of transphobia. The case of Riah Milton who was lured by a 14-year-old girl and two men who attempted to steal her car in Ohio where she was shot to death is reported alongside Fells’ murder as though the two exist within the same criminal mindset.
The Advocate, for example reported, Black Trans Man Tony McDade Killed by Police in Florida quoting Anna Logan, a student volunteer with Leon High School Students Demand Action saying, “This comes at a time when our country is keenly aware of the frequency of police violence against Black people in America.” On May 27th, police were called after a deadly stabbing was reported and came upon McDade who matched the description of the suspect. McDade pulled a gun on the officer who shot him in self-defense. McDade was accused of fatally stabbing the man moments before police arrived.
What appears to be the case in true anti-trans murders is one of opportunity and passion, rather than targeted hate, with few outliers. Murders in which the victim’s trans identity motivate the killing are actions already made illegal under the law. While it may fuel passion and outrage to keep LGBT causes active by claiming that the murders of all trans persons are inspired by transphobia, it does a great disservice both to the trans community and the families of the victims involved who are exploited rather than helped seeking real justice.