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

While 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."


Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist, said that slain civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be "proud" of what President Donald Trump has done for Blacks and Latinos in the U.S.

Bannon was the CEO of Trump's presidential campaign. Trump gained supporters by calling Mexicans rapists, committing to building a wall between Mexico and the U.S., allowing Black people to be physically assaulted at his rallies and lightly disavowing the support of white supremacists.

"Martin Luther King ... he would be proud of what Donald Trump has done for [the] Black and Hispanic working class, okay?" Bannon said on "This Week" Sunday.

On Sunday, King's daughter, Bernice King, CEO of The King Center, re-tweeted a post from The Washington Post reporter Eugene Scott who referenced a similar claim Bannon had made previously. She included a response, simply stating: “Absolutely not."

In May, King tweeted:

Bannon said in March at an event with far-right French politicians that they should "wear" accusations of racism "as a badge of honor."

Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes," he said. “Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker."

Bannon said on Sunday that he was “talking specifically about Donald Trump and his policies."

“His economic nationalism doesn't care about your race, your religion, your gender, your sexual preference," he said.

The Trump administration's “zero tolerance" immigration policy is currently separating children of undocumented immigrants from their mothers and fathers.

King tweeted on Sunday:

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UPDATE May 30, 2018 at 10:38 p.m. ET:

On Wednesday night the Nelsonville City Council unanimously voted to fire police officer Joshua Braglin. The vote came during a city council meeting attended by numerous protesters.


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