Violence Against the Transgendered Only Getting Worse
Nearly a month has passed since the Aug. 26 murder of Ty’lia "NaNa Boo" Mack, a 21-year-old transgender woman, in Washington, D.C. But the violent crime remains on the top of the minds of transgender advocates nationwide.
In its wake, many are left wondering whether crimes like the one against Mack are given the sort of national media attention they should. While no one disputes the horror of a death like the one of Matthew Shepard the Wyoming college student left to die on a fence, some do question whether more societally "marginal" people--often transsexuals and the transgendered-- received less scrutiny by the media or sympathy from the general public.
Mack’s death, in broad daylight on a sidewalk near the Transgender Health Empowerment (T.H.E.) office is the latest in a series of high-profile killings of transgender people in recent memory.
Some of the more notorious incidents include Lateisha Green, killed last November in Syracuse, N.Y. Angie Zapata was murdered last July in Greeley, Colo.
While these cases did, indeed, receive media coverage from both mainstream and LGBT media, others, such as Paulina Ibarra’s murder last month in East Hollywood, Calif., appear to have been largely overlooked.
Ibarra was killed in her residence around 8 p.m. on Aug. 28. News of the 24-year-old’s death only began to circulate in the press last week when a man, Jesus Catalan, was identified as a "person of interest" being sought after by investigators.
Surprisingly little information about Ibarra’s life has been referenced in the media’s reports of the crime. Her story as "a murdered transgender" ended up being practically invisible--her legacy negligible.
EDGE recently spoke with a number of prominent transgender advocates in an effort to get at the root of the relative invisibility of anti-transgender violence.
A numbers game, a lack of protection
The latest, and most reliable, statistics on anti-LGBT violence reveal that it is still a major factor facing the transgender community.
According to a 2008 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), anti-transgender bias is reported crimes is holding steady, in fact, it has increased 12 percent over the previous year.
The murder rate for LGBT Americans as a whole stands at the highest it has been since 1999. There were 29 related such murders reported last year.
When asked why the rate of violence has continued to surge, Sharon Stapel, NCAVP executive director, complained, "We have set up a culture that explicitly sanctions violence against LGBT people. When we have a federal government that says it’s OK to discriminate against people because of sexual orientation or gender identity, we shouldn’t be surprised when violence occurs because there is no protection against it."