While many tears were shed Wednesday night, the Northern Colorado transgender community and its allies also shared words of hope as they gathered to memorialize lives lost to anti-transgender violence on Transgender Day of Remembrance.
International Transgender Day of Remembrance started in 1999 as a day for communities to memorialize those killed due to anti-transgender violence, according to GLAAD, an LGBTQ media group. The annual memorial started as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.
So far in 2019, 22 people have been killed due to anti-transgender violence in the United States, according to One Colorado, an LGBTQ advocacy group. Internationally, that death toll jumps to more than 300 so far this year.
“These are people, not numbers or soundbites,” said Laura MacWaters, the facilitator for Eclectic Northern Colorado, a transgender support group. “… Don’t let these faces and these names fall away on your horizon.”
MacWaters, one of the speakers at Colorado State University’s Transgender Day of Remembrance event Wednesday, said the true number of those killed is much higher because, “we are hidden and misgendered everywhere.”
“We simply wish to be treated with the same respect society and people treat all the people whose gender they never question,” MacWaters said.
Of the 22 people killed this year, 20 were identified as black transgender women and one was identified as a black gender nonconforming person.
To honor them, and all transgender lives taken this year, three members of the Black African American Cultural Center at CSU performed a ritual at CSU’s memorial event called libation, which involves pouring water — in this case, onto two plants that will be placed in CSU’s Pride Resource Center and the BAACC offices — to honor and pay homage to ancestors.
A Coloradoan database collected information of the more than 600 LGBTQ people killed in the 20 years after Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was murdered — beginning with Rita Hester. The database shows transgender women are much more likely to be murdered than any other LGBTQ identity.
Noah Morse, a 25-year-old transgender man, said he moved to Colorado five years ago and was only out as transgender for two years while still living in Arizona.
Morse said finding resources and a community in Fort Collins was much easier. The little resources he found in Arizona were online, and a counselor he found made transphobic comments.
“Moving here was like a breath of fresh air,” Morse said. “Fort Collins is such an open town compared to other places. There’s a bigger community here.”
Even though she also feels safe in Fort Collins, MacWaters said every single death of another transgender person hits close to home. One trans person, MacWaters told the crowd at the memorial, was killed just 2 miles of where she grew up.
“We have tragically lost some brave people this year,” MacWaters said to the crowd. “… Any murder is too much … Any assault is too much. Simply put, any hate is too much.”
“No more” hatred and violence was also the message at the Namaqua Unitarian Universalist’s candlelight vigil for Transgender Day of Remembrance, held Wednesday night in Loveland.
“Our church is making a stance to the community that they won’t be shut out,” if they identify as LGBTQ, said Sheryl Griese, head of the church’s social justice ministry.
The church began hosting a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in 2014 after seeing the need for support for transgender people in the Loveland community. The church also held events in June for Pride Month and October for National Coming Out Day.
After reading some of the names of the more than 300 people killed internationally this year, Rev. Laurel Liefert passed the microphone around the sanctuary asking for stories of hope from attendees.
One person spoke about her husband of several decades who recently came out as bisexual. Another person said they were happy to see a young student come out as transgender with supportive classmates and family.
Another person told the congregation this was the first time they had gone out in public presenting as feminine.
“It’s really a feeling of, ‘come home. You belong here. You’re whole authentic self is welcome,’ ” Liefert said.
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While many in the transgender community find Northern Colorado a safe and accepting place, the area is no stranger to anti-transgender violence. In 2008, Angie Zapata, a transgender woman, was murdered in her Greeley apartment after a sexual partner learned Zapata was transgender.
Transgender people in Northern Colorado also continue to face the same issues as those around the country, MacWaters said. Unemployment, poverty and homelessness rates for transgender people are much higher, and medical insurance often excludes medications and treatment for transgender people — even treatment not related to being transgender, MacWaters said.
“It’s a wonderful town and it’s getting better,” MacWaters said.
MacWaters, who works in a driver’s licensing office, said on Wednesday she had two adults and a teenager with a supportive parent come in with paperwork identifying they are transgender.
“This is all new, this is why I’m optimistic,” MacWaters said. “This is what we’ve gained. This is what we have to protect.”
Transgender people murdered in 2019
As of Oct. 14, 2019, 22 transgender people were killed due to anti-transgender violence, according to GLAAD, an LGBTQ media and advocacy group. The number is likely higher, experts say, because of misgendering of victims or not being able to identify the motive for the crime.
Of the 22, 20 were identified as black transgender women.
Here are their names:
- Brianna “BB” Hill: 30, black transgender woman, killed Oct.14 in Kansas City, Missouri.
- Itali Marlowe: 29, black transgender woman, killed Sept. 20 in Houston, Texas.
- Jamagio Jamar Berryman/Ja’Leyah-Jamar: 30, black gender non-conforming person, killed Sept. 13 in Kansas City, Missouri.
- Bee Love Slater: 23, black transgender woman, found dead on Sept. 1 in Clewiston, Florida.
- Bailey Reeves: 17, transgender woman, killed Sept. 2 in Baltimore, Maryland.
- Tracy Single: 22, black transgender woman, killed July 30 in Houston, Texas.
- Bubba Walker: 55, black transgender woman, killed in late July in Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Pebbles La Dime Doe: 24, black transgender woman, killed Aug. 4 in Allendale, South Carolina.
- Jordan Cofer: 22, was among the nine victims killed in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4. Cofer was only out to a handful of close friends.
- Kiki Fantroy: 21, black transgender woman, killed July 31 in Miami, Dade County, Florida.
- Denali Berries Stuckey: 29, black transgender woman, killed July 20 in North Charleston, South Carolina.
- Brooklyn Lindsey: 32, black transgender woman, killed June 25 in Kansas City, Missouri.
- Zoe Spears: 23, black transgender woman, killed June 13 in Fairmount Heights, Maryland.
- Chanel Scurlock: 23, black transgender woman, killed June 5 in Lumberton, North Carolina.
- Chynal Lindsey: 26, black transgender woman, killed June 1 in Dallas, Texas.
- Paris Cameron: 20, black transgender woman, killed May 25 in Detroit, Michigan. Her two friends, 21-year-old Alunte Davis and 20-year-old Timothy Blancher, were also killed in the incident. Both were black gay men.
- Michelle “Tamika” Washington: 40, black transgender woman, killed May 19 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Muhlaysia Booker: 23, black transgender woman, killed May 18 in Dallas, Texas.
- Claire Legato: 21, black transgender woman, died on May 14 in Cleveland, Ohio after being shot in April 2019.
- Ashanti Carmon: 27, black transgender woman, killed March 30 in Fairmount Heights, Maryland.
- Jazzaline Ware: 34, black transgender woman, killed March 25 in Memphis, Tennessee.
- Dana Martin: 31, black transgender woman, killed Jan. 6 in Montgomery, Alabama.
Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at Coloradoan.com/subscribe.
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