Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Murder of Transgender Woman in Oakland May Be Hate Crime

This weekend in Oakland, CA a 37-year-old transgender woman named Brandy Martell was murdered a block away from city hall. This tragic and brutal event took place early Sunday morning at 5:45 a.m. and has yet to be labeled a hate crime.  Ms. Martell was shot by two men who were allegedly having a conversation with her as she sat inside a car after their dialogue took an angry turn for the worse. Martell’s friends speculate that the men became violent once they learned of her gender identity.
“When you don’t provide a space in society for people who you think are the other or different, especially transgender women, especially transgender women of color, when you don’t provide spaces for them to be in a safe environment or a safe space, whether it’s socializing or services, this is what happens,” Martell’s friend Tiffany Woods told ABC7. Unfortunately, this story has not received wide-spread press coverage beyond local media.

Fortunately, some state and local legislators around the country are taking notice of this disturbing series of murders, and are working on crafting legislation to help address the lack of basic human rights protections for transgender people. For example, the New York’s General Assembly passed the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) with broad bipartisan support. The legislation, which would extend protections to transgender citizens in employment, public accommodations, housing and credit, and education, now advances to the State Senate. It will also add gender identity to the list of protected categories in the state’s hate crimes statute, which is critical to help investigate bias-motivated crimes similar to what occurred in Oakland earlier this week.

PFLAG National strongly condemns the alarming and disturbing trend of violent acts targeting transgender people, both here in America and across the globe. The Trans Murder Monitoring Project of Europe reported that an astounding 539 anti-transgender murders occurred in 42 countries between 2008 and 2011. This type of violence is an assault on all of our families and when unaddressed, puts tens of thousands of lives in danger each day. Many PFLAG chapters including those in smaller communities like Omaha, Nebraska, and larger communities like those in Chicago, Illinois are working with their local law enforcement leaders to help prevent these types of crime from occurring by starting dialogue, forming coalitions, and developing trainings for police staff. But this past weekend’s violence in Oakland only proves how much more work there is to be done, not only on the local front, but also on the state and federal level.

Take Action: We encourage you our members to assert leadership locally by forming strong and meaningful partnerships with local police leaders, building coalition with other social justice organizations, and educating your communities about how to cultivate safety for everyone, especially LGBT folks who are especially vulnerable to bias-motivated crimes. If you are a resident of New York please take a moment to register and attend the Empire State Pride Agenda’s May 8 LGBT Equality & Justice Day. The focus of the event will focus on building support for GENDA, and to encourage the State Senate to take action on this life saving legislation without delay.