Six Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Murders Already in 2015: Statements Alone Are Not Enough

“All we fought for at Weinstein Hall was lost when we left upon the request of the pigs…. You people run if you want to, but we’re tired of running. We intend to fight for our rights until we get them.”     — Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) first pamphlet, 1970.

In the first 31 days of 2015 we have already witnessed the tragic loss of (at least) 6 LGBTQ people of Color. We sit in our homes, offices, and sometimes our streets, holding the reality that precious lives have been taken from us and that families and communities are grieving and surviving through this continuing nightmare.

In the state of Colorado, a 17-year old young person named Jessie Hernandez, was shot and killed by Denver police officers. In New York and California, we lost Candra Keels and Michelle Vash Payne. In Louisville, Kentucky, a gender non-conforming, black gay man was murdered just last week. In Texas and Virginia, Ty Underwood and Lamia Beard, two trans women of color are now dead and gone.

As SONG, we are deeply grieved by the rate of violence inflicted against our southern LGBTQ people—especially for trans and gender non-conforming people of color. This violence has been an ongoing reality for many years.  According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 90% of LGBTQ people killed due to hate violence in 2013 were people of color, and almost three quarters were transgender. Many of these deaths have occurred in the southern region.  Historically neglected by the mainstream LGBT movement, our region is one of great need, in attention but also in resources. It is clear to us that we must seek new, innovative strategies and solutions to address the problems and violence that far too often end up in death and loss. Transphobia and homophobia, along with racism and economic injustice, permeate and seep through the lives of too many of us who are LGBTQ poor, immigrant, black, disabled, women and  people of color.

We know that we must commit to organizing ourselves and our communities in order to live free from fear of all forms of violence. We also understand that we must fight on all levels, externally and internally, to make space for trans and gender non-conforming people’s leadership in the struggle for sexual and gender sovereignty and liberation. Statements and public education are important, but strategies and action that match the depth of the problem are needed desperately. In 2015, SONG commits to a new level of innovation and organizing to make living #freefromfear a reality for all LGBTQ Southerners. We will take risks, and move boldly to use our resources to fight back through all the strategies available to us.