Secret Murders in the United States
Last month, lying in a hospital bed three days after gender affirmation surgery, I read about a horrific murder. A transgender woman, Victoria White, was brutally murdered in her apartment in Maplewood, NJ. When they announced her death, the police used her birth name – a name she was no longer legally known by. They cited her as male, although Victoria had gone through the same surgery as me a few years earlier to proclaim her true gender. Victoria’s murderer has not been found.
The past few weeks have been marked by so many tragic losses. Tyler Clementi. Asher Brown. Justin Aaberg. You may have heard these names, but chances are, you never heard of Victoria White.
Join me in making sure that the death of Victoria White — and other genuine, honest people trying to live as transparently as possible in an all too hostile country — are not kept a secret.
Sadly, Victoria is just one of the many transgender individuals we have lost. Recently, in Eureka, California, Chloe Lacey, an 18-year-old transgender woman, died by suicide. She shot herself at home after “struggl[ing] with fears of harassment and abuse.”
On National Coming Out Day, October 11th, Stacey, a transgender woman, was strangled to death in Philadelphia. When reporting Stacey’s murder, the Philadelphia Daily News put quotation marks around her name. The NBC affiliate disrespected her memory even more, reporting, “The victim is Michael Lee, a 31-year-old man who lived his life as a woman named Stacey Blahnik.”
As October is quickly winding down, and November is fast approaching, a little known annual vigil is about to take place — a vigil that remembers tragically those who lost their lives because of anti-transgender bias, prejudice, and hatred. Commemorate the 12th Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) this November. It is a time where individuals who believe in equality for all gather and remember those that were murdered based on their gender identity or expression.
I vividly remember my first Transgender Day of Remembrance. My family had abandoned me, and I had just begun to live full time in my true gender identity. I was terrified and harassed everywhere I went. Teenage boys tried to run me off the road, family members threatened to kill me, and all I could think about was surviving in a very hostile world. I felt horribly alone. In the LGBT press, I read of hundreds of people that had been murdered or committed suicide who were transgender. I realized I had never read any mainstream news about the deaths, or for that matter the lives of a whole community of people. We were made to be invisible in society, simply by the media keeping our lives a secret. Our murders and suicides were simply swept under the rug, kept secret from the world.
In the name of justice, you can help elevate these tragic murders, and raise awareness of anti-transgender violence.
Around November 20th every year, the Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil is held. Click here to get more information on how you can hold a vigil in your congregation or community.
Remember those whose voices were silenced, whose lives were cut short. Let the transgender community know that while everyone else may have forgotten, you will not allow our dead to remain a secret. Stand with me on the side of love by helping me remind others that every life matters.
Transgender Advocate and Gender Educator