A 32-year-old black transgender woman in Florida has become the 12th known transgender person killed in the U.S. this year.
Mercedes Successful, an active member of the LGBT community in Haines City, Fla., was found shot to death in a parking lot Sunday evening, reports Monica Roberts at TransGriot. Police are investigating her death as a homicide, but have not revealed a possible motive.
A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Successful was well known and active in the drag and pageant communities in Haines City, reports TransGriot. Autostraddle notes that Successful represented her home nation in the 2014 Gay Caribbean USA pageant and was remembered as a lively, fun-loving member of her local community.
Several local media reports on Successful’s death misgendered the victim, identifying her with male pronouns and a masculine name. A follow-up report published Tuesday by Lakeland newspaper The Ledger includes quotes from Successful’s friends confirming that she had recently begun a clinical transition to live full-time as her authentic self, but the article wholly avoids pronouns and uses the late performer’s given name to identify her throughout. In addition to needlessly noting that Successful was “not dressed like a woman when found,” the Ledger article indicates that police are not currently investigating the murder as a hate crime.
Trans advocates have continually noted that when media fails to report responsibly on transgender victims of fatal violence — in violation of industry standards endorsed by the Associated Press and GLAAD — it not only disrespects the victim, but makes it more difficult for readers and advocates to understand that such violence is part of an ongoing fatal epidemic overwhelmingly impacting transgender women of color. Actress and trans advocate Laverne Cox has repeatedly critiqued such tactics, saying earlier this month that “misgendering a transgender person is an act of violence.”
Last year proved to be the most deadly on record for transgender women in America, with at least 21 killed, the vast majority of whom were women of color. This total does not include those whose deaths went unreported by media or law enforcement, or those whose identity was obscured by misgendering by those sources.
By comparison, at least 12 transgender people have been killed this year. Six of those victims have been black women, three were Latina, and one was a white woman working to pull herself out of homelessness. Two transgender men — one white, one black — are also among the dead in 2016. The average age of those killed is just 27 years old.
Anyone with information regarding the death of Mercedes Successful is asked to contact the Haines City Police Department at (863) 421-3636 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 226-TIPS.