Four Black Transgender Women Killed in One Month

Why is the U.S. media so reluctant to cover the killings of unarmed Black transgender women? Why do police continue to label transgender women as men?

By Julissa Catalan

Lamia BeardWhile the media has been focusing on the killings of unarmed Black men—particularly Eric Garner and Michael Brown—there has been little coverage of the murders of four unarmed Black transgender women.

Three Black transgender women were killed in January. Their deaths went practically unnoticed by the media, and when the media did cover their deaths, the victims were misgendered as men.

On Jan. 17, Lamia Beard was found dead from a gunshot wound in Norfolk, Va.

On Jan. 26, Ty Underwood was fatally shot while driving near her home in North Tyler, Texas.

And on Jan. 31, Michelle Vash Payne was stabbed to death and found at the scene of a Los Angeles house fire. A 25-year-old man turned himself for the killing shortly thereafter.

All three victims were originally described as men by police news releases.

Additionally, a Louisville, Ky., murder victim, whom local news outlets originally identified as a 20-year-old Black man, was revealed just last week to be a trans woman. She was killed on Jan. 9.

According to BuzzFeed News, the officer investigating Beard’s murder would only refer to Beard as a man.

“It was kind of shocking when the murder happened, because they saw the body, and they could see she was transgender,” Beard’s sister, Kiara Parker, said. “I wondered why they called her male when they could obviously see she was a transgender woman.”

According to Parker, Beard had lived as a woman for over 10 years.

The killing of Black transgender women seems to be an alarming trend. At least 12 transgender women were murdered in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Meanwhile the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program reported that 67 percent of hate crimes in 2013 were against transgender women from underrepresented groups.

Per the Transgender Law and Policy Institute, 2 to 5 percent of the American population is made up of transgender people, yet an overwhelmingly high rate of that population experiences poverty, discriminatory policing, hate violence, homelessness and HIV.

“The mere fact that there has been no national outcry for the brutal murders of three Black trans women—or the 12 trans women of color brutally murdered in six months—is tragic,” said Lourdes Ashley Hunter, National Director of the Trans Women of Color Collective. “The silence and lack of action on behalf of the Black trans community from mainstream media and social-justice organizations sends a strong message that Black trans lives do not matter.”

“What’s happening with the trans women of color cases is that they’re happening under the cloak of darkness, and so it’s not as amplified,” said Danielle Moodie-Mills, an Advisor for LGBT Policy & Racial Justice at the Center for American Progress. “Their bodies are being found days later or weeks later. It’s terrible the kind of publicity and awareness we need. Something has to happen in broad daylight for us to be outraged.”

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  • Very sad and senseless murders. May all those responsible be held completely responsible.

    #black transgendered women’s lives matter

    #ALL lives matter

  • Our Constitution governs the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those murdered were someone’s child. Irregardless of society’s opinion, when we, as a nation become barbarians we have lost our moral compass and we soon forget that each life is a gift from our Creator. That is the true picture of darkness covering the earth. . .my condolences to the victims families.

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