Personal Safety

AuthorAlly Windsor Howell
ProfessionFormer practicing lawyer from Alabama
The bias and prejudice towards transgender persons leads to an inordinate
amount of violence directed toward transgender persons.
§9.1 Indifference to Violence against
Transgender Persons
While the following article may seem lengthy to some, the story that it
relates is important to an understanding of the problems faced by transgen-
der persons, and especially those transgender persons of color. In his article,
Disposable People, Bob Moser relates the following sad story:
In a city with no shortage of desolate neighborhoods, you’d be hard-
pressed to  nd a bleaker spot than the corner of 50th and C streets
in Washington, D.C.
On one side, there’s a decaying school, its playground barren as a
prison yard. Extending up a couple of blocks is a string of deserted
apartment buildings with boards and burned-out holes where win-
dows used to be. Just across the way, folks still live in a set of matching
brick buildings.
It’s a tough place to grow up, especially when you’re different. Espe-
cially when you’re convinced that you’re a girl with a boy’s anatomy.
Personal Safety
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Especially when the other kids taunt you and throw bricks at you and
you have to quit school because you can’t stand it anymore. Especially
when you’re determined to live openly as a transgender woman, con-
sidered by many the lowest of the low.
Stephanie Thomas could have told you all about it. Until last Aug.
12, 2003.
Around 11:30 p.. the night of the 11th, 19-year-old Thomas and
her best pal, 18-year-old Ukea Davis, reportedly told friends they were
going to a nearby gas station for cigarettes. Nobody can say for sure
where they actually went.
But just about everybody in the city knows that a little after 3 ..,
the friends were sitting in Thomas’ Camry at a stop sign on the corner
of 50th and C. Almost home. Then a car came up beside them, and
the two were pelted with  re from a semiautomatic weapon.
According to an eyewitness report, another car approached after
the shooting. A man got out to see what had happened. Davis was
already dead. When the man nudged Thomas’ shoulder to see if she
was still alive, she moaned in con rmation. But her helper  ed as the
rst car returned. The gunman got out and  red more shots, making
sure Thomas was dead.
By the time rescue workers reached the bloody car, she was. Like
her friend’s, Thomas’ body had been pumped full of bullets—at least
10 apiece.
A block up 50th, Thomas’ mother, Queen Washington, got the
news at 5:30 .. She’d been well aware that it was dangerous to be
transgender in D.C.—or anywhere else in America, for that matter.
But she hadn’t seen this coming.
“If he’d known somebody was after him, I’d have known,” says
Washington, a feisty administrative assistant at the federal Bureau
of Land Management who never got used to calling Stephanie “she.
“We were tight. He’d come by just that afternoon with his girlfriends,
before he went to get his nails done. We kept it real, him and I. He
knew I’d always protect him as much as I could.”
Washington knew early on that protecting her youngest kid, whose
name was Wilbur when she adopted him at three months, wouldn’t
be easy.
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“He was a beautiful child, always very dainty, always very feminine.
In  rst grade, a teacher—a teacher, mind you!—called him gay. I had to
immediately go up to the school and get her straight. He came home
that day and my neighbor told him gay meant happy. We looked it
up in the dictionary. ‘See?’ I said. ‘It’s true!’”
. . .
“That’s the last picture of him as a boy,” his mother says, “before he
became who he was.” By contrast, she  ips to a photo of Stephanie at
18, bear-hugging her mom. “Look at that smile!” she says. “He was
a happy person—after he came out. You see? He didn’t have those
sad eyes no more.”
The only thing that would have been worse than the brutal mur-
ders, Washington says, would have been never seeing that smile. “At
least he had a chance to be who he was,” she says. “I told him, God
don’t make no mistakes. I know you didn’t make yourself. Who would
make up a life like this? Who would be something the world hates?”
Hate killing victims Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis share a
headstone, bought by Thomas’s mother.
. . .
The best friends’ joint funeral was packed. The Washington Post
devoted a 3,500-word feature to the two lost lives. Local transgen-
dered activists redoubled their efforts to forestall another tragedy.
Police vowed to do the same.
. . .
Early on the morning of Aug. 16, four days after the vigil, one of the
District’s best-known transgendered nightclub performers, 25-year-old
Latina immigrant Bella Evangelista, was shot and killed by a man who
had paid her for sex. Police arrested 22-year-old Antoine D. Jacobs
as he pedaled away from the scene on a bicycle, charging him with
rst-degree murder and later with a hate crime.
Four nights later, shortly after a vigil was held for Evange-
lista, police found the dead body of Emonie Kiera Spaulding. The
25-year-old transgendered woman had been brutally beaten, shot,
and dumped nude in a stand of scraggly, trash-strewn woods bor-
dering Malcolm X Avenue. Her clothes were found a day later in
a nearby dumpster.
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