|US state hate crime laws as they pertain to sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation and gender identity recognized in state hate crimes law Sexual orientation recognized in state hate crimes law Sexual orientation recognized for data collection about hate crimes State hate crimes law noninclusive of sexual orientation or gender identity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Colorlines reported in 2011 that seventy percent of anti-LGBT murder victims were people of color. In that that same year, they revealed a report from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called 'Injustice at Every Turn.' The report uncovered some startling findings about transgender people of color:
Respondents were nearly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, with household income of less than $10,000.
Respondents were twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the population as a whole. Half of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment or other mistreatment in the workplace, and one in four were fired because of their gender identity or expression.
While discrimination was pervasive for the entire sample, it was particularly pronounced for people of color. African-American transgender respondents fared far worse than all others in many areas studied.
Housing discrimination was also common. 19% reported being refused a home or apartment and 11% reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression. One in five respondents experienced homelessness because of their gender identity or expression.
An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population.
Discrimination in health care and poor health outcomes were frequently experienced by respondents. 19% reported being refused care due to bias against transgender or gender-nonconforming people, with this figure even higher for respondents of color. Respondents also had over four times the national average of HIV infection.
Harassment by law enforcement was reported by 22% of respondents and nearly half were uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
Despite the hardships they often face, transgender and gender non-conforming persons persevere. Over 78% reported feeling more comfortable at work and their performance improving after transitioning, despite the same levels of harassment in the workplace.Now, just a year later, the Daily Beast reports that the media and the mainstream gay community has been ignoring "a rash of assaults on transgender women:"
On June 5, 2011, Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald set out with three friends to go to a grocery store in Minneapolis. On the way they passed by the Schooner Tavern, where they encountered Dean Schmitz and Molly Flaherty. McDonald was 22, black, and transitioning from male to female. Schmitz and Flaherty, who were white, shouted racist and transphobic slurs at McDonald and her friends. McDonald kept walking, but Flaherty attacked her with a broken glass, cutting her face. A fight ensued, Schmitz joined, and at some point McDonald stabbed Schmitz with a pair of scissors. Schmitz (who, incidentally, had a swastika tattooed on his chest) later died of his wounds.In the face of this violence and injustice, there are thankfully organizations looking out for the interests of trans people of color. The Trans People of Color Coalition is just one such organization. As the only national social justice organization promoting the interests of trans people of color, the TPOCC has a massive job. From labor advocacy to spiritual and religious concerns, the TPOCC seeks to "inspire and nurture collaboration among communities of color dedicated to anti-racism and fighting transphobia and the empowerment of transgender persons of color." TPOCC's founder, Kylar Broadus, just yesterday testified before the U.S. Senate on ENDA(“Equality At Work: The Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”) He was the first transgender person to testify before the Senate.
By any rational reading of these facts, McDonald’s actions constitute self-defense. (Though Minnesota lacks a “stand your ground” law like Florida’s, her use of force was arguably more justified than George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin—yet where are all the voices that raced to defend Zimmerman?)
Despite all this, McDonald was charged with second-degree murder, and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in May. On Monday, she was sentenced to 41 months in prison for manslaughter. Due to time already served, she probably will spend the next two years in prison, where if recent history is any guide, she will be subjected to physical and sexual assault. (As a general rule, prisoners are organized by anatomy, not gender, so she will be placed in a men’s prison.)
While the sentence has sparked outrage in some circles, it has gone virtually unnoticed by the mainstream media, as well as in the mainstream gay community, which has been consumed by the same-sex-marriage debate and the Tyler Clementi/Dharun Ravi case. But in fact, the CeCe McDonald case is part of a recent, horrifying spree of violence against transgender people, particularly trans people of color.
You can donate to TPOCC here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.