The pain and confusion misgendering causes

Jasmine Collins was a 33-year-old transgender woman living in an Area of Kansas City known as the Bottoms. If you can call it living...

Jasmine did survival sex work as an occupation.

She was just the typical girl out here,” said Kris Wade, co-founder and executive director of the Justice Project, which works with 29 women engaged in so-called “survival sex work”, a majority of whom are transgender or sex-trafficked into Kansas City.

On June 23 some of the girls began texting Wade, asking if Jasmine had been killed behind the Fast Stop gasoline station.

Knowing that the Fast Stop gas station on Independence Avenue was notorious as a place where any cop could “always find a body”, Wade said she called the Kansas City police homicide division for answers.

Did you guys find a transgender woman dead body behind the Fast Stop? And they’re like, ‘No, we haven’t had any bodies behind the Fast Stop’.

--Wade

Then a local television station reported that a woman had killed a man named Jermaine J. Collins while arguing over a haircut and a pair of shoes.

For 10 days, the people looking out for Jasmine Collins on the streets – potential witnesses, potential victims – did not know she was dead. But when Wade returned to Kansas City and heard that Tia Townsel – a cisgender woman counseled at those same church meetings to get sex workers off the streets – had been arrested and charged with second-degree murder, she says she called the homicide detectives again.

Wade called the police again.

Hey, you guys got Tia Townsel in custody? And they say, ‘Oh, yeah! She killed some guy down at the Bottoms.

So I asked if that person was transgender and they said they didn’t know. I said, ‘Find out.’ And sure enough – it was Jasmine.

--Wade

This all came to light after the funeral of Tamara Dominguez.

It is Mexican tradition to amass red and white flowers at a funeral for a woman.

But there were no flowers on Saturday for Tamara Dominguez, the record 17th transgender person reported killed in the United States this year, because her brother planned the service. And her brother still refers to Dominguez as a man named Jesus – even after she was run over three times by a sport-utility vehicle in a church parking lot.

When they found out, friends and advocates rushed to a nearby florist and returned to Mt Washington Mausoleum Chapel with bouquet upon bouquet for the closed casket. Dominguez’s partner, whom the Guardian will call Cristian as he fears for his safety in this city that has become the epicenter of America’s transgender violence, still does not know if his girlfriend of six years is wearing men’s clothing inside.

I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was there. A lot of people still cried for her.

--Cristian

When Tamara was killed, the Kansas City Star referred to her by the name supplied by the police: Jesus E. Dominguez.

The newspaper changed its pronouns and defended itself, but activists in the transgender community were livid: this city may have seen at least nine LGBT homicides since 2010, but they remain frustrated that local media has become the de facto first-warning system for potential hate crimes. Violence against trans people is on the rise, say advocates in Missouri and beyond, but the cycle of gender misidentification – from police reports, to the crime blotter, into a victim-filled void – may be doomed to repeat itself.

There is currently no comprehensive federal system for tracking transgender homicides.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics, a government agency which has struggled to keep better track of police killings than the FBI, says the number of hate crimes [against transgender people] overall may be 40 times the FBI’s count of 33 last year.

More accurate, respectful and consistent reporting by both media and government about trans people’s lives and deaths is sorely needed to give us a picture of the problem we are facing and its solutions.

--Harper Jean Tobin, NCTE

I know that she was the kind of person that was always looking forward. One of the things she would say is that you can’t be consumed in the hurt – you must keep moving forward.

--Cristian

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If this is a murder, it makes the 18th...

Robyn's picture

...known murder of a trans woman this year.

It did occur during a fight in which Collins apparently hit Townsell over the head with a vodka bottle first, but then Townsell left the scene to get her knife and returned to stab Collins to death.

--Advocate

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