A homeless transgender man has died in an apparent homicide in Burlington, Vt. Amos Beede, 38, was found unconscious by police May 22. He had suffered multiple blunt-force injuries to his head and body, and was transported to the University of Vermont Medical Center. Though doctors were initially hopeful that Beede might recover, his condition deteriorated through the week, and he died from his injuries last Sunday.
According to the police report, Beede was found near a homeless encampment. Police are seeking two individuals as persons of interest in relation to the case, but no arrests have yet been made. In a press release, investigators indicated that no motive for the attack has been established yet, but the possibility that the assault was motivated by Beede's gender identity has not been ruled out. The Advocate’s calls to the investigating detective and community liaison, seeking further information, were not returned.
Amos Beede was originally from Milton, Vt., just north of Burlington, and graduated from Milton High School. In an interview with the Burlington Free Press, Matt Young, the street outreach coordinator with the Howard Center, a social services agency, described Beede as a friendly, talented artist and loyal, protective friend who made many close connections in the areas he frequented. Young said he sought out Beede as a helpful, reliable source of information on numerous topics, particularly local happenings and potential gaps in community services.
Beede was a regular visitor at the Vermont Pride Center, Burlington’s LGBT community center. Pride Center staff worked diligently to ensure that Beede was not alone after the attack and during his hospitalization, and to contact his family. They are currently planning ways to honor and remember Beede’s life.
Even if Beede’s assault was not a direct result of his gender identity, trans people remain extraordinarily vulnerable to poverty and homelessness due to systemic discrimination, widespread underemployment, and substantial gaps in nondiscrimination protections. Until the Department of Housing and Urban Development finalized a new rule proposed last November, federally funded emergency centers were legally allowed to turn away transgender people seeking access to shelters that corresponded with their gender identity.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, one in five trans people will be homeless at some point in their lives, whereas the national average is closer to one in 100. According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, homelessness vastly increases a person’s risk of illness, injury, and death, and significantly reduces a person’s life expectancy.
While some federal agencies — including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education — have interpreted existing civil rights law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity, there is no federal law that makes it illegal to fire, deny housing, or refuse employment to someone because they are transgender.
Beede is at least the 13th trans person to be the victim of a homicide in the United States in 2016. Of those killed, the majority have been transgender people of color — specifically black trans women.