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A young Black transgender woman was murdered in Dolton, Ill, a suburb of Chicago, on September 6. Disaya Monaee Smith is the fourth trans to be killed in Chicago in 2021 and at least the 36th trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming American who has died by violence this year, most of them Black or Latinx women. To date, Smith’s death has mostly been reported by individuals and organizations, not media outlets.
According to law enforcement, officers responded to reports of gunfire at the Prestige Inn and Suites on September 6. Smith had been shot twice when she was found, and was pronounced dead the same morning at Franciscan Health Hospital in Hammond, Illinois. Detectives are reportedly investigating, although a suspect has yet to be identified.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) attributed this epidemic in the LGBTQ+ community to “a toxic combination of transphobia, racism, and misogyny.” Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said:
The epidemic of violence plaguing the transgender community, particularly Black transgender women, is appalling. We must do more to protect trans lives and provide resources to support the trans community.
Last year, in the middle of a pandemic, at least 44 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in the United States — the highest number since the HRC started tracking data in 2013. Of those, about half were transgender women of color, a majority of them Black.
This year, the HRC has counted at least 36 transgender or gender nonconforming people killed, the highest number it has recorded at this point in the year. According to Alphonso David, president of the HRC, at least 20 of them were Black or Brown trans women. He said the number of victims is likely higher because many such attacks go unreported or misreported.
Many transgender people have difficulty living full and open lives because of dehumanizing abuse and fear of being assaulted. This is traumatic for this community. If they are afraid of leaving home at night, or walking home, or walking to the store, they are not free. David added:
If you are transgender, if you’re Black or Brown, because most of these deaths are Black or Brown transgender and gender-nonconforming people, you are not able to exercise your freedom in this country.
Fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color because they are at the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia. And they, unfortunately, are receiving the brunt of the violence in this country.
As of today, hundreds of bills have been introduced in state legislatures around the country that attempt to erase transgender people [and] make LGBTQ people second-class citizens. In order to achieve equality, we need those in positions of power at the largest businesses in the country to rise up against injustice and discrimination; businesses that have increasingly, over the years, embraced the inherent benefits of being socially responsible. … Companies cannot rise up and speak out against hate in the streets but remain silent when they see hate being indoctrinated in our laws by state legislatures and in the halls of the U.S. Capitol.
These fears have been compounded by a flurry of recent legislation that advocates say discriminates against transgender people. So far this year at least 33 states have introduced more than 100 bills that aim to curb the rights of transgender people across the country. Advocacy groups say 2021 is on track to be a record-breaking year for such legislation.
Reportedly, this year is on track to be the deadliest for transgender and gender non-conforming people in the US. HRC has tracked fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people since 2013. As reported by Axios, at least 36 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed in 2021. Most victims were Black or Latina women.
Killings of trans people are often underreported, in part because law enforcement and media reports tend to “deadname” and misgender victims, according to ProPublica. Misidentifying trans people can disrupt a police investigation, preventing community members from helping identify victims and damaging the relationship between law enforcement and the trans community.
On Sept. 6, 2021, a young black trans woman was murdered. Little information about the young black woman’s demise has circulated, and some of it is conflicting. This is typical for trans murder victims. The website for the Chicago-based Higgins Family Funeral Home lists a D’isaya Smith who died September 6 and lists her age as 27. However, HRC believes she was 32.
Disaya Monaee Smith, like many others, was misgendered and “deadnamed” by numerous media outlets in reports of her death. LGBTQ+ advocates mourn the young woman’s death, noting that she is one of nearly two dozen Black trans women murdered this year.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
The Advocate: Black Trans Woman Disaya Monaee Fatally Shot in Chicago Suburb
HRC: Detailed Breakdown of 2021 Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation
CNN: Deadly attacks on Black trans women are going up.
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