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"A State of Emergency": At Least 17 Transgender Women Have Been Murdered This Year

StoryAugust 18, 2015
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The murder of Tamara Dominguez on Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri, marked at least the 17th murder of a transgender woman so far this year. Dominguez was repeatedly run over in a church parking lot. Her death follows the recent murders of a number of African-American transgender women, including Elisha Walker, found in a "crude grave" in North Carolina; Shade Schuler, whose decomposed body was found in a Dallas field; Amber Monroe, shot and killed in a Detroit park; and Kandis Capri, fatally shot last Tuesday night in Phoenix, Arizona. "This is a state of emergency for the transgender community," Chase Strangio says. "We are living in a moment where we should be incredibly concerned about all of the mechanisms of violence against our community."


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to switch gears a bit and talk to you, Chase Strangio, about the recent killings of transgender women across the country. The body of Elisha Walker, a 20-year-old transgender woman missing for almost a year, was recently found in a "crude grave" in North Carolina. This comes amidst reports of three other black transgender women killed in Texas, Michigan and Arizona: Shade Schuler, whose body was found in a Dallas field; Amber Monroe, who was shot and killed in a Detroit park; and Kandis Capri, shot dead Tuesday night in Phoenix, Arizona. Now, Tamara Dominguez of Kansas City, Missouri, has reportedly become the latest transgender woman murdered, bringing the total number to 17. Dominguez was—17 just this year. Dominguez was run over repeatedly in what’s being investigated as a possible hate crime. People are calling this a national crisis.

CHASE STRANGIO: It absolutely is. And I think, you know, as leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have made clear, and trans black leaders have also made clear, this is a national crisis. This is a state of emergency for the transgender community. And it’s a state of emergency that’s disproportionately affecting transgender women of color, and particularly black trans women. And we are living in a moment where we should be incredibly concerned about all of the mechanisms of violence against our community. And state violence includes the violence of police officers, but it also includes all of the ways in which transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, have their lives cut short through systems of discrimination and through the interpersonal violence that leads them to be killed, as these women have been. And it is absolutely devastating, and I hope that, you know, that we don’t have to turn on the TV or look on Facebook or Twitter to see another trans woman of color murdered.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you finding that these women are being—the investigations being treated differently than if they weren’t transgender?

CHASE STRANGIO: Absolutely, I think, in two critical ways. The first is that the media, the local media in particular, often misgenders the transgender women, calling them men, which is—you know, itself contributes to the violence against them. And then the delays in bringing people to justice is also a concern for the transgender community. It’s been two years since Islan Nettles was murdered right here in New York City, right here in Harlem, and it was a long time before any meaningful investigation was done, and people had to take to the streets over and over again. And, of course, just bringing an individual to justice is not going to solve the problem of this violence, because it is systemic and it is institutional. And we really have to look at all of the ways in which transgender people, and black transgender woman in particular, are cut off from systems of support.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back for one moment to Chelsea Manning and the possibility of her facing solitary confinement, indefinite solitary confinement. How does this go to the issue of solitary confinement in this country?

CHASE STRANGIO: We overuse solitary confinement in this country. It is something that we should not be using at all, and we use it as a default mechanism for minor disciplinary infractions, things like having an expired tube of toothpaste. We use it as the default mechanism for allegedly keeping transgender people safe in men’s prisons. We use it, you know, to keep death row prisoners in solitary confinement for the duration of their time on death row. We have a serious problem here, because people are being tortured in our prisons, in our jails, and people are dying and coming out of prison and killing themselves, because this is absolutely an intolerable way to confine people. And I hope that the continued attention to Chelsea’s case will affect our policies.

AMY GOODMAN: Chase Strangio, I want to thank you for being with us, staff attorney at the ACLU, part of Chelsea Manning’s legal team.

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