Luke Schulte is a featured contributor to local San Antonio print and television media. He is an actor, activist, and equality advocate.
Two years ago, I wrote a piece for About Magazine about an alarming trend in violent crime: the apparent biweekly murder of a trans woman somewhere in the United States. Sadly, while violent crime may be down statistically speaking, as a community we continue to experience these losses far too often.
According to GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, 2016 was the deadliest year on record for trans murders. Total, there were 27 reported. 2017 is only several weeks old, and already we’ve lost seven trans women—two within days of one another in New Orleans alone.
Known Trans Murders in 2017
January 4, 2017 (Canton, Mississippi): Mesha Caldwell, a 41-year-old makeup artist, is found dead on a rural road. Caldwell had been shot several times.
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow
January 6, 2017 (Sioux Falls, South Dakota): Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, a 28-year-old social work and nursing student, is found dead in her home after a neighbor reports a strong odor coming from the residence.
February 8, 2017 (Toledo, Ohio): Jojo Striker, 23, is shot once in the torso and is later found dead in an empty garage.
February 19, 2017 (Monroe, Louisiana): Jaquarrius Holland is gunned down during a verbal altercation and later dies from her injuries. She was 18.
February 21, 2017 (Chicago, Illinois): Keke Collier, 24, also known as Tiara Richmond, a trans advocate and outreach worker, is shot to death in Englewood.
Chyna Doll Dupree (Gibson)
February 25, 2017 (New Orleans, Louisiana): Chyna Doll Dupree, a 31-year-old nightclub performer, is shot to death outside a shopping center.
February 27, 2017 (New Orleans, Louisiana): Ciara McElveen, an advocate for the homeless and accessible healthcare, is stabbed to death. She was 25.
March 22, 2017 (Baltimore, Maryland): Alphonza Watson, 38, is heard yelling for help. Shortly after, witnesses report hearing gunshots as two men speed away in a car. Watson later dies of her injuries.
As if the murders themselves weren’t tragic enough, in many cases the report of the victim’s death was delayed due to gender misidentification and “dead naming,” or the use of the victim’s name at birth which is no longer relevant and unrecognized by those close to them.
Every death matters, and every loss is tragic. Notification should never be delayed simply because someone in the PD or ME's office is unsure of how to identify the victim.
In several media reports in more than instance, friends and family members were willing to be interviewed and willing to provide information which helped identify the victim, but were unwilling to be named on the record.
Where is the societal outrage at this trend of murders? Where is the DOJ investigation? Where is the legislative call to arms to treat trans violence as a hate crime? Why are these murders somehow more palatable to our society?
I understand that we're not dealing with a serial killer. I understand that in some cases, the victim's gender identification may have played little to no part in their murder. However, by and large, the exclusion, prejudice and brutality trans men and women face in this country is due to a systematic refusal to acknowledge that transgenderism is real.
We exist in a country whose founding principle is the idea that more than one opinion can be right simultaneously, and that no one who voices a minority opinion should ever feel disenfranchised or excluded. More and more, the actions of everyday Americans and the current legislature abandon those principles and the fear of the unknown gets the better of us.
What Can You Do?
I am tired of going to candlelight vigils. I am tired of going to funerals. Outrage is not enough. We must take action. Call, email, write to your local, city, state and national representatives. Demand they enact trans protections and stop discriminatory "bathroom bills." Follow organizations such as the HRC, National Center for Transgender Equality, Equality Texas and Be Human. Volunteer and pledge your support. We must do everything possible to stop the trend of trans murders in this country. Do your part today!
Human Rights Campaign
- Explore: Transgender | Human Rights Campaign
HRC works to educate the public on issues that transgender people face and to advocate for full inclusion and equality.
National Center for Transgender Equality
- National Center for Transgender Equality
The National Center for Transgender Equality is the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people.
- Equality Texas
Equality Texas works to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Texans through political action, education, community organizing, and collaboration.