Op-ed: CeCe McDonald Was Punished for Surviving

Society too often accepts that young, black, transgender women are victims of violence.



I can't imagine the pain being felt by the people who love Paige and CeCe. Both have families and friends who want them back so badly. And for CeCe, the prison sentence she will receive next month is a reminder of how the criminal justice system has failed us again. While CeCe’s family will get her back, and despite CeCe’s resolve, her future is now fraught with barriers like dangerous treatment in prison, and later problems with accessing public services and even her ability to vote. All of this will only make completing her education and finding work that much harder. Facing an attack motivated by fear of who CeCe is and its aftermath, the choices and circumstances of her life have not been and will not be entirely her own to make.
Months and hundreds of miles apart, the aspirations of these two young women were derailed by hate. Despite the temporal and geographic distance between the violence they faced, in some ways, they were together at the same intersection—the intersection of race, class, age and gender, where violence is shamefully common, committed against anyone who lives there, without regard to the content of their characters. In this country, if you are black or poor or young or transgender—any one of those things—you are so much more likely to face violence. If you are all of those things the danger is compounded and too frequently ends in death.
This intersection is also a place where the justice system often fails. And in my time in Minneapolis and Chicago, I had to face a hard truth: CeCe is supposedly lucky. Against the odds, she's alive. Paige Clay is dead and CeCe McDonald is being punished for surviving.

MARA KEISLING is the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), a transgender social justice organization. Follow NCTE and Mara on Twitter.