|"The first step towards change is awareness. The second step is acceptance."|
The concept of gender is merely that, a concept. It is nothing more than a constructed idea implemented by society in order to enact regulatory social norms. As with any reasonable construction there must be parties to act upon the role set forth. Though we may try to restrict the effects of traditional gender roles on our lives, that often proves to be an uphill battle. The reach of gender binaries and heteronormativity extend to every aspect of an individual's life. These generalized social concepts are the very things that serve to constantly threaten the lives and existence of transgendered people everywhere. Trans people are the very antithesis of the normative gender binary. Because of this they are one of the world’s most disportionately targeted populations. In addition to the negative way in which trans people are viewed by society, there’s a grave misconception held by those who are not part of the LGBT community in which they believe that the LGBT community in it of itself is an inclusive space. People often assume that the members of the LGBT community are all viewed through the same, proportionate lens of discrimination. Well, sorry to rupture any of your oblivious hetero-cis bubbles, but it isn’t. The very same hierarchies and prejudices that exist outside of the LGBT community exist just as prominently within it. This is evident mainly on the topic of race. It is often to easy for many ignore the way the intersections of race collide with the reality of being gay or trans. Systematic racism has already created a chasm that promotes the criminalization of black bodies here in the land of “free”. This reality is largely exacerbated when the bodies being criminalized are not only black, but trans. One of the most prominent figures who has endured the stark discrimination that accompanies being black and trans is a woman named CeCe McDonald.
Around midnight on June 5, 2011, a 23-year-old African American transgender woman named Crishaun "CeCe" McDonald was walking with four friends past Schooner Tavern in Minneapolis. A group of at least four white people outside the bar began harassing McDonald and her friends, calling the group, all of whom were African American, "niggers" and "faggots." One of the men in the group, who would later be identified as Dean Schmitz, said "look at that boy dressed like a girl tucking her dick in." As McDonald and her friends tried to walk away, Schmitz's ex-girlfriend Molly Flaherty hit McDonald in the face with a glass of alcohol and sliced open her cheek, causing an injury that would later require stitches. The groups began fighting, and when McDonald attempted to leave the scene, Schmitz followed. McDonald took a pair of scissors out of her purse and turned around to face Schmitz; he was stabbed in the chest and died from the wound. Though she was injured in the scuffle with Flaherty and claimed the wound inflicted on Schmitz was in self-defense, McDonald was arrested that night and then charged with second-degree intentional murder (Paluska pg.1 2012). Her case highlighted in the most vivid of terms, the violence that is faced by trans women of color on a regular basis. In the resulting after of McDonald’s case although she identifies as a woman, she was sent to a men’s correctional facility. McDonald, who bears the cross of being trans and black, was forced to withstand not only the brutality exacted upon trans people, but the disfranchisement the people of color regularly face within American society. She underwent a trial in a judicial system that was created specifically to put people who look like her behind bars. “During the process of jury selection, Judge Moreno denied several motions from the defense to submit details about the victim and his past as evidence, including a photo from the autopsy report showing Schmitz's swastika tattoo and his criminal record. According to Andy Birkey in the American Independent, "The judge ruled that his criminal history was sufficiently different from his actions on June 5 and therefore could not be shown to the jury." The judge also ruled that the defense could not call an expert witness who would testify to transgender people's experiences of violence in their everyday lives. For supporters like Burgess and Lex Horan, the reports that Schmitz and his friends initiated the fight that night, shouted racist and transphobic slurs, and injured McDonald bring to mind other cases of violence against transgender people—a violence that's endemic and likely underreported, according to the Population Reference Bureau, a DC-based nonprofit that analyzes data on demographics (Paluska, 2012). Sadly, cases like CeCe McDonald’s are all too commonplace. Transgender women of color are systematically victimized all across this country. Transgender women of color often meet violent and early ends for partaking in acts as simple as leaving their homes. As Laverne Cox so perfect articulated during her Democracy Now interview with CeCe McDonald, “The act of merely walking down the street is a contested act.”
Lack of Visibility
Trans people are in dire need of more visibility to show that they are here and that their identities are legitimate, especially in a world where their very existences are considered erroneous. This lack of recognition allows not only for the facilitation of the violence against transgendered people but for that same violence to go unchecked. Hate violence is a prevalent and deadly issue faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-affected communities. The 2013 national report on hate violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and HIV-affected communities by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) demonstrates the impact of hate violence in the lives of LGBTQ and HIV-affected individuals around the country. The 2013 report on hate violence highlights the impact of hate violence against transgender who continue to experience violence at alarmingly high rates and are often targets for fatal hate violence. The majority of the victims of hate violence homicides (72%) in 2013 were transgender women. More than two thirds of the homicide victims were transgender women, while 67% of victims of homicide were transgender women of color, yet transgender survivors and victims only represent 13% of total reports to NCAVP. This data follows a multi-year trend where the victims of fatal hate violence are overwhelmingly transgender women, and in particular transgender women of color. Transgender people of color were also 6 times more likely to experience physical violence from the police compared to White cisgender survivors and victims. The intersection of racism and transphobia can make these survivors and victims more vulnerable to violence and more likely to experience discrimination and violence from direct service providers and law enforcement.
Paluska, N. (2012). “The Case of CeCe McDonald: Murder—or Self-Defense Against a Hate Crime?” Retrieved December 17th, 2016 from
Vincent, A. R. (2016). “State of Emergency for Transgender Women of Color.” Retrieved December 18, 2016 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/addison-rose-vincent/state-of-emergency-for-tr_b_5792722.html
National Coalition for Anti-Violence Programs. (2013). Retrieved December 18th, 2016 from