Four Black trans women in Jacksonville, Fla., have been shot, three of them fatally, over the past six months. Two were shot inside their hotel room, and the last was killed outside an abandoned house.
“There doesn’t seem to be a concern for anybody,” Aea Celestice told ProPublica. “I guess other people have other things going on in their lives than being concerned about a trans woman getting murdered.”
It is not just whether or not the police will conduct an investigation, it is also the matter of how they conduct the investigation in Jacksonville, and in other parts of the U.S.
Across the country, “some 65 different law enforcement agencies have investigated murders of transgender people since Jan. 1, 2015,” according to ProPublica. “And, in 74 of 85 cases, victims were identified by names or genders they had abandoned in their daily lives.”
This practice is known as “Deadnaming.”
“Deadnaming occurs when someone, intentionally or not, refers to a person who’s transgender by the name they used before they transitioned,” according to Healthline.com. “You may also hear it described as referring to someone by their ‘birth name’ or their ‘given name.'”
On Monday, Laverne Cox, a transgender woman who is an Emmy-nominated actress and LGBT activist, took to Twitter and Instagram in response to the murders and the practice of deadnaming.
“As I read this report from ProPublica I sobbed and wept for all the trans people who have been murdered and those experiencing direct, cultural and structural violence,” Cox wrote. “I wept because I haven’t been allowing myself to. I wept for all of the violence I have experienced in my own life.
“I am angered, saddened and enraged that the police in Jacksonville, Florida and other jurisdictions don’t have policies in place to respect the gender identities of trans folks when they have been MURDERED.”
Deadnaming could greatly hinder the efforts of the investigation. Loved ones who might only know them as their preferred name might be less inclined to help the investigation.
After one transgender woman’s death, the police referred to her as a man and released a male name to the media, one she hadn’t used in years. People who knew her were outraged and asked police to respect her chosen identity.
According to members of Jacksonville’s LGBT community, “investigators have taken a low-key attitude towards a series of murders that should trigger an alarm in any city.”
Although Jacksonville is the 12th largest populated city in the country, they are not up to par with other smaller cities that have far less resources. New Orleans police sent a liaison to the LGBT community within two weeks of two murders of transgender women last year.
It took Jacksonville police over a month after three murders to hold a public meeting and this was only after pressure from advocates and transgender women.
For Celestice, simply being a Black transgender woman in the city right now feels unbearable.
“I have to get out of here,” she told ProPublica. “I have a lot to offer and it would be a shame if my life was cut short because someone decided that they wanted to kill me.”