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ACLU Attorney: Growing Number of Murders of Trans Women Can’t Be Separated from Anti-Trans Laws

StorySeptember 13, 2016
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As many as 20 transgender women have been killed so far this year, including 28-year-old Rae’Lynn Thomas, a black transgender woman who was fatally shot by her mother’s ex-boyfriend in Columbus, Ohio, last month. Family members say the shooter, James Allen Byrd, frequently made transphobic comments to Rae’Lynn and sometimes called her “the devil.” There are now reports that another transgender woman may have been murdered over the weekend on the West Side of Chicago. The Chicago police have confirmed a body was found on Sunday, but have not released details. We discuss the escalation in violence against transgender women with Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU.

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

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, I wanted to talk about the murder of transgender women across the United States this year. By some estimates, as many as 20 transgender women have been killed so far this year, including 28-year-old Rae’Lynn Thomas, a black transgender woman who was fatally shot by her mother’s ex-boyfriend in Columbus, Ohio, last month. Family members say the shooter, James Allen Byrd, frequently made transphobic comments to Rae’Lynn and sometimes called her “the devil.”

There are now reports that another transgender woman may have been murdered over the weekend on the West Side of Chicago. The woman’s friend, Jaliyah Armstrong, said at a vigil on Monday night, quote, “People don’t know what we go through out here. They don’t see the struggle being transgender on the West Side. It’s crazy. I just want justice for my friend,” unquote. The Chicago police have confirmed a body was found on Sunday, but have not released details. Can you talk about violence against transgender people?

CHASE STRANGIO: Yeah. I think what we’re seeing is a complete escalation of violence against trans people, particularly transgender women of color, black transgender women most especially. And this is something that we’ve seen escalating over the course of the last few years. About 20 trans people have been murdered this year. And I think what’s important to note is that it is impossible to extricate this escalation of violence from the anti-transgender sentiment that we’re seeing in state legislatures, seeing in litigation. You have in Texas, for example, lawsuits being filed by Ken Paxton and other state officials, arguing that—you know, that treating transgender people “constitutes material cooperation with evil.” That’s a direct quote from the complaint filed in a challenge to the 1557 regulations under the Affordable Care Act. And then, meanwhile, you have individuals perpetrating heinous acts of violence, calling transgender people, you know, “the devil.” And so, these things are connected. And the people who will suffer the most are the black and brown transgender women who are living, you know, very perilously situated as this violence escalates across the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you for being with us, Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU. He represents Chelsea Manning in a lawsuit against the Pentagon.

And that does it for our broadcast. I’ll be speaking this Thursday in New York at the book launch of Sohail Daulatzai’s Fifty Years of The Battle of Algiers: Past as Prologue, beginning at 7:00 at NYU Tishman Auditorium, Vanderbilt Hall.

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