On February 15, Jojo Striker was found dead in Toledo, OH. Striker, a 23-year-old black transgender woman, was the third trans person to be murdered this year. The other two, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow and Mesha Caldwell, were also women of color.
Police not only misgendered and deadnamed Striker, but also blamed her for her own murder. As is often the case, anti-black and anti-trans violence is dismissed because of mistakes victims may have made in the past.
On February 17, anti-trans liberal comedian Bill Maher had anti-trans alt-right icon Milo Yiannopoulos on his show, Real Time with Bill Maher, giving Yiannopoulos a platform to spew his bigotry to millions of Americans. The two “controversial” white men bonded over their anti-transness, perpetuating the myth that trans women are a threat to cisgender women and girls. Over two million watched live, with countless more watching online later.
On February 22, Donald Trump, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos killed the Obama administration’s guidance protecting trans students in federally funded schools. Most states have no protections for trans folks, meaning that the majority of trans students in the United States now have no legal protections whatsoever.
The same day, Keke Collier, a 24-year-old black trans woman, was murdered in Chicago. She was misgendered by initial reports. She also went by the name Tiara Richmond.
Trans folks, particularly trans women of color, face incredibly high rates of bullying, harassment, homelessness, healthcare and housing discrimination, assault, suicide, and murder. According to Planet Transgender, a trans woman is slain every 29 hours. As trans visibility increases, so do the rates of anti-trans violence as well as anti-trans legislation such as North Carolina’s HB2. And this violence is now being supported not only by Republican state governments, but by the White House.
On March 22, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for the case of Gavin Grimm, a trans boy from Virginia who was banned from using the men’s restrooms at his school. During the hearing, the humanity of trans folks will be disputed. This is the case that will determine whether trans students are considered valid by the judicial branch.
My identity and the identities of other trans folks are not up for debate. We are people, we are valid, and our genders are valid. Treating us as discussion topics is demeaning. But this is what the federal government will do for at least the next four years.
The stakes here are life or death. The rates of anti-trans violence will only increase with encouragement from Republicans in control on every level of government. It is up to individuals and communities to protect trans folks from bigotry and discrimination. It is far past time for everyone to stand up for trans folks. This isn’t about just letting us pee. It’s about letting us live.