The Common Good

Transgender Killings Reflect Deeper Injustice

For the second time in Chicago this year, the life of a gender-variant young person of color was lost to violence.

Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock.com

Related Reading

Take Action on This Issue

Circle of Protection for a Moral Budget

A pledge by church leaders from diverse theological and political beliefs who have come together to form a Circle of Protection around programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

Donta Gooden’s body was found in an abandoned building on the city’s West Side late in the evening of August 14th. Gooden, 19, who also went by the name “Tiffany,” was stabbed to death just three blocks from where Paige Clay, a 23 year-old transgender woman, was shot and killed in April, according to media reports. The police investigation is ongoing.

The tragedy of these senseless killings, still so raw and heartrending for the loved ones of Gooden and Clay, is beyond comprehension and deplorable on every level. But perhaps even more unsettling is how often violent crimes against LGBTQ people occur and how little social outrage they ignite.

For many, these two terrible tragedies may melt into the background in a year when Chicago is scrambling to stem a rising tide of murder across the city (year -to-date homicides are up 25 percent from August 2011 according to data compiled by the Redeye. However, they are part of an alarming trend of violence targeting LGBTQ people of color – and transgender and gender-variant people of color in particular – which directly intersects with the front lines of the HIV epidemic.

Nationally, transgender women represented 40 percent of the 30 reported hate murders against the LGBTQ community in 2011, the most recent data available from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. In the same year, LGBTQ people of color represented 80 percent of the people killed in hate murders.

In Chicago, the Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project reported a 12 percent increase in hate violence against members of the LGBTQ community in 2010, with 73 violent incidents in 2010 as compared with 65 in 2009.

From those 73 attacks in 2010, there were two murders —  both victims were transgender women.

We don’t know if the people who killed Clay and Gooden were motivated by hate. We may never know.

But the premature loss of their young lives brings into stark relief the mountain of overlapping challenges and injustices so many are struggling to overcome. Homophobia, transphobia, racism, lack of economic opportunity, and an absence of adequate mental and physical health care leave many transgender and gender-variant people at increased risk of experiencing violence.

And if you were to face such enormous challenges daily, where would HIV prevention fall on your list of priorities?

Of course, violence and discrimination against transgender people of color is but one of the many societal obstacles standing in the way of effective HIV prevention and treatment. But they are all connected, interwoven. The day we end AIDS in America will be the day we also end violence, poverty and discrimination on the West Side of Chicago.

Clay and Gooden must never be forgotten. We can honor them by raising our voices against the social injustice that led to their murders.

Jim Merrell is the national advocacy and mobilization manager for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. This post originally was published at Inside Story blog, which provides story and analysis about HIV / AIDS issues.  

Photo: Activists gather in Washington Square Park on the 8th Annual Trans Day of Action in New York City. Glynnis Jones / Shutterstock.com

Sojourners relies on the support of readers like you to sustain our message and ministry.

Related Stories

Resources

Like what you're reading? Get Sojourners E-Mail updates!

Sojourners Comment Community Covenant

I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the Sojourners online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree, even if I feel disrespected by them. (Romans 12:17-21)

I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. (Matthew 5:22)

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt. (Ephesians 4:29)

I will hold others accountable by clicking "report" on comments that violate these principles, based not on what ideas are expressed but on how they're expressed. (2 Thessalonians 3:13-15)

I understand that comments reported as abusive are reviewed by Sojourners staff and are subject to removal. Repeat offenders will be blocked from making further comments. (Proverbs 18:7)