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Mainstream Media Finally Pays Attention to Killings of Trans Women

Juju Chang and Dominique Jackson

Thursday’s episode of Nightline on ABC drew attention to the epidemic of violence against transgender women of color, and for the first time the show featured a trans woman of color as a presenter — Pose star Dominique Jackson, who joined co-anchor Juju Chang.

The episode featured in-depth reporting on the widespread violence. It spotlighted victims such as Muhlaysia Booker of Dallas, who was shot to death in May, a month after she was beaten by a mob at an apartment complex.

“The whole apartment complex was outside… and nobody helped her,” Jazmine Deamon, a friend of Booker’s, said of the beating. “It actually gives me the chills.”

Deamon, who Booker considered her “Auntie,” assisted her after the attack. “I get her and I put her in my bed. I took all her clothes off. They were full of blood,” Deamon said. “I just start praying over her. … She pulled me by my shirt and she tells me, ‘Auntie, I told you they hate us. … Our own people hate us. They want us dead.’” A month later, Booker was killed.

Violence against trans people “happens on the daily,” Deamon said. “It breaks my heart. It’s reality. It’s reality. As a Black trans woman, it makes me feel scared. I feel alone. I feel ashamed. I feel abandoned. I feel hopeless.” Dallas has been the site of several attacks on trans women this year, and in the past five years, nearly half the murders of trans Americans have occurred in Texas.

In the 18 murders of trans Americans documented by The Advocate this year, all but one of the victims have been Black women. There also has been at least one victim whose identity is in dispute. Initial reports indicated that Ja’leyah-Jamar Berryman, killed in September in Kansas City, Kan., was a trans woman, but the victim's family has released a video identifying Berryman as male. However, Jackson, who visited Kansas in the wake of the murder, referred to Berryman as a trans woman.

Jackson and Chang engaged in a post-show Facebook video conversation, in which Jackson explained that trans women of color face danger particularly because they don’t come from a place of privilege and often have difficulty finding employment and stable housing. “We want to be cooks and lawyers and doctors and go to school,” she said, but discrimination prevents many trans women of color from realizing those ambitions. She urged the audience to recognize trans people’s humanity. “We’re human beings,” she said. “We just happen to be trans.”

The show also features survivors of violence, such as Amber Nicole Herenandez, attacked in Denver this year, and activists including TransGriot blogger Monica Roberts and Ruby Corado, founder of Casa Ruby in Washington, D.C.

Watch two clips from the show plus the Facebook video below, all courtesy of ABC News/Nightline.

Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project’s free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.

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