Another name has been added to the list of transgender women of color either murdered this year or found dead.
Keisha Blige of Montgomery, IL, was shot while driving a car with a friend in Aurora in March. Blige attempted to drive herself to the hospital but lost control and crashed into a Jeep. Paramedics transported her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The Chicago Tribune misgendered Blige, as has happened by the media in all of the cases this year, as well as using her dead name. Police said the shooting was not considered to be random, but declared that it "definitely was not a hate crime."
In a later story the Tribune identified Blige as transgender and taking hormones, but still used male pronouns.
Now Keyshia's friend Sasha Love has reported to the Guardian that Blige identified as transgender and used female pronouns.
She was the happiest I had ever seen her once she started transitioning.
In 2015 we have witnessed the highest homicide rate of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the US ever recorded by NCAVP. Our country cannot continue to watch this violence happen without action.
We call on public officials, community leaders, and community members to act now to end this crisis of violence against transgender people. We cannot do this alone, and everyone has a part in ending this violence
--Chai Jindasurat, co-director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project
Love said Blige and she began performing drag in the latter part of the last decade.
They had both been attracted to it not only because they liked to dress up, but because they had learned how to lip-synch while growing up in their church choir.
When she would dress up, she would tell me ‘I love being Keyshia. I want to be Keyshia.'
Love said that Blige stopped doing drag after being gay-bashed by four men on June 24, 2011, leaving her with nerve damage to her face. The perps were all caught and ordered to pay restitution.
For a while she stopped doing shows because of the hate crime and she gained more weight. She was more concerned with her weight and how she looks, and stopped dressing up.
Late last year, after significant weight loss and renewed confidence, she started doing shows more and began coming out as transgender.
At first when her family found out, they were like: Oh my god, what is he doing?” she said, “but I think once they realized that Bryce is going to do what Bryce is going to do, they got better.
Her family they were coming around to the point where they were coming around.
The list of the dead, in chronological order. The one listed first actually happened last year, but was not discovered until earlier this month.
November, 2014: Elisha Walker, 20, beaten to death in Smithfield, NC. Body discovered in a shallow grave on August 13, 2015
January 9, 2015: Papi Edwards, 20, shot to death in Louisville, KY
January 17, 2015: Lamia Beard, 30, shot to death in Norfolk, VA
January 26, 2015: Ty Underwood, 24, shot to death in Tyler, TX
January 31, 2015: Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, stabbed to death in Los Angeles, CA. Apartment was then torched.
February 1, 2015: Taja Gabrielle, DeJesus, 36, stabbed to death in San Francisco, CA. The murder part of a murder/suicide.
February 10, 2015: Penny Proud, 21, shot to death in New Orleans, LA
February 13, 2015: Bri Golec, 22, tabbed to death in Akron, OH (by her father)
February 16, 2015: Kristina, Gomez Reinwald, 46, stabbed to death in Miami, FL. Death originally ruled a suicide.
March 7, 2015: Keisha Blige, 33, shot to death in Aurora, IL
May 18, 2015: London Chanel, 21, stabbed to death in North Philadelphia, PA
May 30, 2015: Mercedes Williamson, 17, murdered in Rocky Creek, AL, body found covered by debris in a wooded field..
June 23, 2015: Jasmine Collins, 32, stabbed to death in Kansas City, MO
July 14, 2015: Ashton, O'Hara, 25, beaten to death in Detroit MI (identified as non-binary)
July 21, 2015: India Clarke, 25, beaten to death in Tampa, FL
July 23, 2015: K. c. Haggard, 66, stabbed to death in Fresno, CA
July 29, 2015: Shade Schuler, 22, shot to death in Dallas, TX. Body dumped in vacant field.
August 8, 2015: Amber Monroe, 20, shot to death in Detroit, MI
August 11, 2015: Kandis Capri, 35, shot to death in Phoenix, AZ
August 15, 2015: Tamara Dominguez, 36, vehicular homicide in Kansas City, MO
DeJesus, Reinwald, and Dominguez were Latina. Golec and Haggard were Caucasian. All the rest were African-American.
That makes an additional murder to be added to the 2014 list and eighteen for 2015. Seventeen of those were transpeople of color.
No kind of spinning is going to rid us of the elephant in the room — [transgender women of color's] lives are being snuffed out at a disproportionate rate. "Cause: Hatred AND racism. If it was just hatred, white people would be leading the death tally here in the United States. If there ever was a compelling case that racism still exists in the U.S., this is it.
--Lexie Cannes, State of Trans
Black Lives Matter observed Black Trans Liberation Tuesday earlier this week to call attention to the current epidemic. A major intersection was shut down in northwest DC.
Chanting “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name,” the demonstrators stood in the middle of the intersection of 14th and K Streets NW and literally got in front of cars trying to pass through the intersection. Some were carrying placards or signs while others simply obstructed traffic. One driver tried to escape the intersection, driving through a group of protesters and using his car to push them back before speeding off. Police eventually were able to herd the demonstrators back onto the sidewalk without making any arrests.
The shutdown of the downtown intersection was an unplanned, spontaneous action that grew out of the larger rally in Franklin Square, which was held to commemorate the lives of the transgender women killed in recent years. At one point in the rally, organizers chanted the names of the deceased three times, releasing a black, yellow, pink or blue balloon (the colors of Black Lives Matter and the transgender flag) into the air for each life lost.
I’m here to talk about what black cis men can do, and I can’t start that without talking about that there’s not a lot of black cis men here.
We put this call out to everybody, and, once again, the people who answered this call, the people on the front lines, the people who honestly did 90 percent of the work were black women, both black cis women and black trans women.
When you talk about answering the call, you just have to show up. It’s a simple ask. When black trans women are dying across this country, and all they did was ask us to put on a rally at a park…black cis men need to show up.
--Aaron Goggans, rally organizer
I don’t think apathy is separate and apart from how we treat women and trans women in general. I think apathy largely stems from a patriarchal, misogynistic environment that society has created and that many of us have perpetrated. I think the problem is we often don’t take enough time to unpack our own privilege, being cisgender men. When we look at the acts of violence that happen against black trans women, a lot of it is from our black cis brothers, and so it was a time to call us out and to hold ourselves accountable and responsible for standing up and saying their names.
--Preston Mitchum, BLM
I’ve been harassed in the street, in the Metro. I’ve had to start carrying a knife in my purse. Any time that a trans woman has been murdered, I’ve fallen on my bedroom floor in tears. …Last week, I was on my floor. And I said to myself, ‘There’s a war going on. There’s a genocide. And I feel like I’m walking into a minefield every time I leave my house.’ But my attitude has changed, because all of you are saying you are with me.
--Venus, black trans woman
The hashtag that was utilized today was putting the #TBackInBlack. There’s a reason for that. When you talk about ‘Black Lives Matter,’ you do not think of black trans people. You do not think of the black trans women who are being murdered. You do not think about the black trans people who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. When black people are being murdered by the police, we are also being murdered. And we carry all of that.
The reason that we are here is we learned about the murders of five black trans women in one day. And there was no outrage. There was no shutting down in the streets. There was nothing. This has been a consistent epidemic in this country. This is nothing new. …There’s nothing new about my rage. There’s nothing new about Venus having to travel around this city with a motherfucking knife because she doesn’t know if she’s going to be next on a list. So be very clear that today, it is a celebration, because our sisters were never celebrated before. But also be clear that this is a call to action that you are all being charged with to sustain.
--Elle Hearns, rally organizer