Murders Of Two Chicago Transgender Women Mirror Anti-Trans Violence Across U.S.

Advocates say murders of transgender women have been on the rise nationwide in the last five years. At least 22 trans women have been murdered so far in 2018, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and the majority have been trans women of color.

Tracking the exact number of deaths can be difficult. Police investigations often identify trans victims by names they no longer use.

Chicago has seen two trans women murdered in the last five weeks: Dejanay Stanton, 24, and 31-year-old Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier. A memorial service for Carter Frazier will be held Saturday.

Sarah McBride is the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. She joined the Morning Shift to talk about violence against trans women, and the discrimination trans community members face in their daily lives.

On the Human Rights Campaign’s effort to track anti-trans violence

Sarah McBride: The Human Rights Campaign has been tracking fatal violence against transgender women since 2013, and really that was one of the first years that we started seeing the media accurately and confidently report on the murder of transgender people, which is where we get most of our data from. Right now there is still a dearth of data, and each year we have tracked an increasing number of transgender people killed. 2017 was the deadliest year on record for the transgender community, with at least 29 transgender people… mostly transgender women of color murdered. This year in 2018, we’re at 22 transgender people who have been killed, and of course that unfortunately could rise by the end of the year. It of course includes two women in Chicago: Dejanay Stanton and Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier. And this violence is part of an increasing trend of hate violence across the country: violence against not just transgender people, but against Muslims, people of color, immigrants, that we have been seeing over the past eight years.

On the causes of violence against trans women

McBride: The perpetrators of this violence range from those who do know the victim of the violence to complete strangers. In some cases, we know that the violence is a byproduct of systemic and institutional discrimination. That pushes them into the shadows, into underground economies, in some cases into survival sex work, and they may be facing violence from individuals that they’re interacting with engaging in those types of work. And so there are a number of different factors, and there’s a number of different perpetrators in the case of this violence.

On deadnaming in police Investigations

McBride: Deadnaming is a term used by many in the community to refer to when people misgender transgender people like myself — when individuals call us by the name we were given at birth as opposed to the name that we use every day. When people misgender us with pronouns by referring to the pronouns that were associated with the sex we were assigned at birth as opposed to the pronouns that match who we are. There are a number of different ways that media and law enforcement too often misgender and deadname victims of violence… the first is obviously most fundamentally an issue of respect. It is an incredible indignity on top of the ultimate injustice for transgender victims of fatal violence to be disrespected in this kind of way when they have spent their lives fighting to be seen and affirmed as who they are, then only in death to continue to continue to have society misgender them and disrespect their identities. And so first and foremost, it’s an issue of respect. But then there are two practical reasons why this misgendering and disrespect for transgender victims of violence is incredibly dangerous and undermines the very efforts to combat this violence. One, it’s much more difficult for law enforcement to properly investigate these crimes… if they’re misgendering the people to the communities that these transgender people belong in. Because for one, it sends a message that the community can’t trust those who are investigating because they’re seeing them clearly disrespect their friends or their colleagues or their neighbors. And it’s also confusing, because if law enforcement says “hi, do you know this person?” and they’re using the name that they were given at birth, and everyone knows them by a different name, it’s gonna be confusing, and they might not get the information they need to fully investigate.

On how to make Chicago a safer place for trans people

McBride: We don’t live in a vacuum. Even if a city like Chicago has inclusive policies and many inclusive laws, which it does as a city, that doesn’t mean that the Chicago transgender community is not influenced by the fact that here in the United States we’re seeing federal attacks against the rights and dignities of transgender people. So we need folks in every community, regardless of how blue or how red, to make sure that they are fighting anti-trans policies and pushing pro-equality legislation policies at every level of government, including the federal level.

GUEST: Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign

LEARN MORE: Transgender woman fatally stabbed, body left behind abandoned West Side building (Chicago Sun-Times 10/4/18)

Dejanay Stanton, trans woman killed in shooting, ‘always living life’ (Chicago Sun-Times9/5/18)

Deadnamed (ProPublica 8/10/15)

Violence Against Transgender People is On The Rise (The Takeaway 10/11/18)