Victims Slain for Nonconformity, Report Says
Friday, December 15, 2006
An advocacy group for transgender people issued a report yesterday detailing deaths of 50 people across the country who they believe were targeted because they did not conform to gender norms.
Victims in the report were 30 and younger and were killed since 1995. Among those documented are Stephanie Thomas, 19, and Ukea Davis, 18, who were shot in 2002 in Southeast Washington. The teenagers were biologically male but dressed and lived as women. The crime has not been solved.
Thomas and Davis were found early Aug. 12, 2002, at 50th and C streets SE, in the front seat of Thomas's vehicle. Each had at least 10 bullet wounds. D.C. police have not classified the case as hate-based, but have not ruled out the possibility, said Sgt. Brett Parson, head of the department's gay and lesbian liaison unit.
Parson said that even when police do not rule a crime hate-based, if the community believes that it is, it has the same impact of causing fear and anxiety.
"That's the crux of what hate-bias crimes are," Parson said.
Transgender is an umbrella term for people who do not conform to traditional notions of gender. Most transgender homicide victims across the country are poor, of color and male, but show signs of femininity, according to the report, issued by the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition in Washington.
Riki Wilchins, executive director of the group, called those factors "the nexus of vulnerability." She said that the coalition has begun an education campaign to raise awareness about the issue.
All of the known perpetrators of the killings are men, according to the report, and some victims were slain in unusually violent ways, such as beatings. "There is something out there around gender that is angry and violent and incites people to kill," Wilchins said. "It incites profound hostility and rage."
The report details seven deaths each for the District and California, while other states had six or fewer. Wilchins said that Washington's number could be higher than others because some people who do not live mainstream lives migrate to urban areas.
Six of the D.C. victims listed by the advocacy group were slain. The other, Tyra Hunter, 24, was seriously injured in an August 1995 traffic accident. As she lay unconscious, a D.C. emergency medical services worker discovered that she had male genitalia and halted treatment for several minutes, laughing and making derisive remarks. Hunter died that night at a D.C. hospital.
Queen Washington, Thomas's mother, said yesterday that she believes her daughter was killed because she was a man living as a woman. She said she is frustrated with D.C. detectives, who she believes have not dedicated enough time or resources to solving the killing.
"The police didn't do their job," she said. "I've done a better job investigating the crime than they have."