a suburb just outside of Dallas, and to the disbelief of many -
straight and LGBTQ - across the country, a transgender mural is
painted on the side of a tattoo and piercing shop. The mural
commemorates the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, displaying an image
of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (our foresisters) of the
Stonewall Riots. They are the catalysts of our 1969-to-present day
LGBTQ movement. Their images are against the backdrop of the colors
of the transgender pride flag.
Kenny, the muralist behind the painting, explained his objective:
mural represents the trans women of color who were key figures in
that riot and also key figures in the start of the queer liberation
movement,” Kenny told KXAS-TV. “This mural is to honor
them and to give more visibility, love, and attention to the
transgender community. I wanted this mural to be a positive
reinforcement that we are all a human family. We have a lot more in
common than our differences. I’m hoping the mural can be a
this 50th anniversary of Stonewall I hope images of Marsha P. Johnson
and Sylvia Rivera will be on display. I hope as they will be honored
in many LGBTQ communities across the country this Pride session
Americans get to learn of the difficult day-to-day struggle it took
them to stay alive, too. And, I hope we all will do more to stem the
violence acted upon our transgender community, especially our trans
black and Latinx sisters of color.
one week this May, three transwomen of African descent were murdered-
Michelle Washington, 40, Claire Legato, 21, and Muhlaysia Booker,
23. As I draw attention to these sisters, several this year in 2019
have been murdered, and, sadly, many more will be murdered.
(also known as Michelle Simone and Tameka) was found dead with
gunshot wounds to her head, body, and buttocks.
time that we say this is happening to transwomen; it’s
happening to black transwomen, it’s happening to transwomen of
color.” Deja Lynn Alvarez, a candidate for Philadelphia City
Council, told “Philadelphia Gay News.”
was shot in the head after an argument erupted between her mother and
the shooter. Legato’s Cleveland community took to social media
to express their grief and outrage.
you, cousin,” wrote a friend on Facebook. “I’m
hurt, sad, angry all in one. Fly high.”
was found shot dead on a quiet street in Dallas. In April, Booker was
beaten by a crowd that shouted “ That’s what your faggot
ass gets,” “Get that faggot out of our hood,” and
“Shoot that punk ass.” The mob scene was caught on cell
phone footage that went viral on social media.
black trans female community has been subject to a steady stream of
assaults since gentrification evicted them out of city’s once
LGBTQ neighborhood. Like Booker, they congregate on a strip on the
outskirts of town, and many engage in transactional sex to survive.
hate crime laws include sexual orientation but not gender identity,
which makes Kenny’s mural a protest statement, and an act of
always remember Rita Hester’s vigil because the words of
Hester’s mother haunts me.
Hester, 34, an African American transwoman from Allston, MA. was
mysteriously found dead inside her first-floor apartment with
multiple stab wounds to her chest in1998. Her dead kicked off the
“Remembering Our Dead” web project and is the catalyst
for what’s now our annual International Day of Remembrance.
Hester’s mother came up to the microphone during the Speak Out
portion of the vigil at the Model Cafe where Rita was known, she
repeatedly said in a heartbroken voice that brought most of us to
tears, including myself “ I would have gladly died for you,
Rita. I would have taken the stabs and told you to run. I loved you!”
As the vigil processed from the Model Cafe to 21 Park Vale Avenue
where Rita lived and died, Hester’s mother again brought me to
tears as she and her surviving children kneeled in front of the
doorway of Rita’s apartment building and recited “The
Lord’s Prayer.” Many of us joined in unison.
decades HRC has reported the violence and murders of our transgender
community. In a reported titled “Violence Against the
Transgender Community in 2018” on HRC’s website it
states the following: “ While the details of these cases
differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects
transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism,
sexism, homophobia, and transphobia conspire to deprive them of
employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that
make them vulnerable.”
the “Trans Catholic Voices” breakout season at the
DignityUSA conference in Boston in 2017, I heard the vulnerability of
an African American transwoman who pointed out that Pope Francis
statements about transpeople deny them of basic human dignity and
perpetuates violence against them.
her closing remarks, the African American transwoman ”asked for
help from advocates and allies in the room that brought me to tears.
lives are real lives. Trans deaths are real deaths. God works through
other people. Maybe you can be those other people.”
are those other people.