By Ryan Gierach, West Hollywood, California
Transgender sister of Los Angeles Clippers guard Reggie Bullock, Mia Henderson, was found murdered in a West Baltimore, Maryland alleyway on Wednesday.
That killing follows only weeks on the heels of another homicide of a transgender woman in Orange County, Zoraida Reyes, an inspiring transgender activist, whose body was found behind a restaurant.
That same month, another African American transgender woman, Kandy Hall, was brutally murdered in Baltimore and two other transgender women were found dead in what authorities say were “horrific” homicides in Fort Myers, Florida, and Cincinnati, Ohio.
In light of the news, Christopher Argyros, Manager of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Anti-Violence Project, issued statement saying, “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of these women, all of them young, transgender women of color whose brutal deaths appear to be motivated by senseless hate.
“Today, ” he said, “transgender women comprise almost three-quarters (74 percent) of LGBTQ victims of homicide; more than two-thirds are women of color.”
The Center’s services to support transgender people include: an Anti-Violence Project to assist survivors of hate violence and discrimination; a Transgender Health Program that provides medical care; the Transgender Economic Empowerment Project to help people achieve financial health, employment, and stability; and counseling and support groups.
In addition, having seen the State of California adopt every imaginable pro-lesbian or pro–gay policy in the past 20 years, the city of West Hollywood has made transgender activism its new cause for equality.
It was the first municipality to form a Transgender Advisory Board (2009) to advise it on matters relating to the advocacy on behalf of transgender rights such as education, community awareness, and empowerment and to make recommendations on the adoption of programs, policies or ordinances of benefit to the constituency.
The Board and City co-sponsor the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance to commemorate the hundreds – possibly thousands – of transgender people murdered each year because of prejudice, ignorance and hatred.
That prejudice, ignorance and hatred do not always rise to the level of homicide,
Mr. Agyros reminded. “It’s… also political and religious leaders, anti-LGBT organizations, and prominent voices in the media. I’m talking about people in power who use demeaning and offensive slurs to refer to transgender people, people trying to legislate what bathroom we can use, and people trying to prevent us from competing on sports teams.
“We see the horrific results of this bigotry every day at the Center, while caring for and serving transgender people who experience extreme discrimination in all areas of life, and disproportionately are the target of street harassment and victims of violence at the hands of strangers and loved ones.”
Karina Samala, the chair of the West Hollywood Transgender Advisory Board, told WeHo News that the entire transgender community was at higher risk of suffering a violent incident simply, ‘because of hate and ignorance and prejudice.
“I have heard parents tell their child, ‘I’d rather find you dead than have you be this,'” she said. That lack of parental and community support in turn, she says, sets off a cascade of life choices that can only turn out badly.
“Since transgenders are coming out earlier, or being forced out of the house,” Ms. Samala said, “they can’t find work,” so end up relying on the oldest profession to find food and housing.
Because the transgender youths practice on the street, in an underworld of drugs, sex and violence, they are much more at risk for homicide than any other segment of society (except young black men).
In other words, while changing bathroom signs is a step forward, President Obama has the better idea with his “Hire a trans person” campaign set off when last month he mandated that all federal contractors implement non-discrimination policies toward lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgenders.
The City’s Transgender Advisory Board meets on the first Wednesday of every month at 7:00 pm in rooms 5 & 6 at the Plummer Park Community Center – 7377 Santa Monica Blvd.
For more information on the Transgender Advisory Board, please call the Board’s staff liaison David Escobedo at (323) 848-6414.