An African-American transgender woman murdered in Dallas is the 13th trans woman reported killed in the United States in 2015. The badly decomposed body of Shade Schuler, 22, was found in a vacant field two weeks ago, but police were only able to identify her remains this week.
Schuler was shot to death July 29, and her killing raises the toll of reported trans murders past the total for all of 2014.
"Our hearts are saddened by the loss of Shade Schuler, a Dallas transgender woman whose life was taken too soon," Cece Cox, CEO of the Dallas’ LGBT community center, said in a statement to the website Lone Star Q. "Our sincere condolences go out to her family and friends. For transgender women, safety is a real and warranted concern... We encourage the Dallas Police Department to investigate and seek out the killer."
Trans Pride Initiative’s Nell Gaither confirmed for the news media and police that Schuler was transgender.
"Several of us spent time verifying she was trans and trying to learn more this afternoon and evening," Gaither wrote on Facebook Wednesday, after speaking with police. "Her name was Ms. Shade, and she was only 22 years old. … Our hearts and thoughts are with her family and friends who now must confront this unfortunate taking of life. May we find space in our hearts to celebrate her time with us and the lives she touched. May we find inspiration in this loss to work together, trans and cis alike, to end the violence that has taken so many of our trans siblings from us far too soon."
Gaither also took the extra step of contacting The Dallas Morning News to point out that the newspaper kept misidentifying Schuler as male. "I would like to ask if you could at least not identify her as 'a man' in the articles," Gaither wrote. "'A person' would be better." The newspaper updated its story online to remove references to Schuler as a man following Gaither's outreach.
Lexie Cannes, writing for the blog State of Trans, pointed to the intersection of this growing spate of violence against transgender women of color and the racial tensions that have gripped the nation in recent months. Most of the victims this year have been black transgender women.
"No kind of spinning is going to rid us of the elephant in the room — [transgender women of color's] lives are being snuffed out at a disproportionate rate," Cannes wrote. "Cause: Hatred AND racism. If it was just hatred, white people would be leading the death tally here in the United States. If there ever was a compelling case that racism still exists in the U.S., this is it."
Anyone with information about the crime is urged to call the Dallas Police Homicide Unit at (214) 671-3650 or Crime Stoppers at (214) 373-8477.
The identification of Schuler comes less than one week after the murder of Amber Monroe, 20, of Detroit, who was a student at Michigan's Wayne State University. Monroe was fatally shot in an area where police investigated three hate crimes against trans women one year ago, including a murder, according to Detroit’s WXYZ TV.
Monroe's murder brought the toll this year to 12, equalling the number of trans murder victims in all of 2014.
The 11th victim was killed in Fresno, Calif. Police there have been searching for those responsible for the early morning stabbing death of 66-year-old K.C. Haggard, who local advocates say was a trans woman.
Haggard's murder was the second in July. The body of a 25-year-old black trans woman, India Clarke, was found in a park outside Tampa, Fla.'s University Area Community Center. She had been beaten to death.
Before Clarke, nine trans women were reported murdered this year: Mercedes Williamson, 17, in Rocky Creek, Ala.; London Kiki Chanel, 21, in Philadelphia; Kristina Gomez Reinwald, 46, in Miami; Penny Proud, 21, in New Orleans; Taja DeJesus, 36, in San Francisco; Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, in Los Angeles; Papi Edwards, 20, in Louisville, Ky.; Ty Underwood, 24, in Tyler, Texas, and Lamia Beard, 30, in Norfolk, Va.
Bri Golec, 22, of Akron, Ohio, has been identified as another possible trans murder victim, although there have been conflicting reports from friends and family about how Golec identified. By comparison, 12 transgender women were murdered in the U.S. in all of 2014, though this does not account for individuals whose deaths were not reported or investigated, nor for victims who were misgendered or not regarded as trans women in death.
In regard to the Monroe case, Detroit police emailed The Advocate in response to our request for clarification of the department's policy for identifying transgender victims of crime. "Our policy states that we treat all victims equally and investigate all cases of violence as we normally do regardless of gender, appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression," Sgt. Cassandra Lewis wrote. "However, we must legally identify all persons based on what is stated on their state issued identification."
Lewis also outlined what Detroit police are doing to address deadly hate crimes like this. "We are conducting a LGBT Community Chat in an effort to get citizens in the LGBT community the opportunity to come out and speak with the Police Chief and other law enforcement partners about the violence that is committed against them. This is a way for the community and the police department to work together to bring about positive change." Anyone with information about Monroe's murder should contact the Homicide section of the Detroit Police Department at (313) 596-2260 or (800) SPEAKUP.
The Detroit News reported that a spokesman for Wayne State University said there was no record of a student named Amber Monroe, and that WSU has no record of her ever being a student there. However, it's not clear if Monroe used another name to register, and the spokesman was unavailable for further comment.
Click here for a link to view our updated coverage of the women whose lives have been taken in 2015 due to transphobic bias.
CORRECTION: There have been 13 trans women killed this year, at least 10 of whom were trans women of color.