New information on a murder that occurred on 7 March brings the “official” death toll of transwomen in the United States to 19. This does not count the ones that have gone unreported, unknown, or in this case, reported poorly. And, like the overwhelming majority of the rest of the murders, the victim was a woman of colour.
Keyshia Blige, 33, from Aurora, Illinois was shot as she was driving with some friends. She was hit and managed to continue driving before she crashed into another car. EMS were called to the scene and transported her to hospital where she was pronounced dead.
“It’s definitely not a hate crime,” Dan Ferrelli, media relations manager for the Aurora police department, said. “But we have some working theories that we are looking into.”
So far no one has been arrested.
The reason this murder has just come to light this week is that Keyshia Blige has been misgendered by the Aurora Police for the past six months, calling her Bryce Stiff and reporting her as male. A follow up story on 24 March had the headline “Man Killed in Aurora Shooting Lived a Life Marked by Joy and Pain.” Buried towards the bottom of the article was the paragraph “In recent months, he started seeing a doctor to help him with hormone therapy as he began transitioning to a woman. He posted a photo to his Facebook page on Valentine’s Day of two pills that he said would help him start a new life.”
Her best friend, Sasha Love, reported her gender identity to the Guardian on 25 August which finally alerted the trans* community-at-large about the murder after six months of misgendering by the police and media.
“She was the happiest I had ever seen her once she started transitioning,” Love told the Guardian.
This case comes at a time when LGBT murders are being discussed more by community leaders but there is a lot that needs to be done to improve tracking and reporting of these incidents.
“We can’t even track transgender violence or respond appropriately when police and media outlets refuse to name a trans person’s identity,” said Randall Jenson, youth and outreach coordinator for the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project.
The US does not have a comprehensive tracking system in place for transgender homicides and consistent misgendering by police and news sources make it even more difficult to know when another murder has occurred.
This year has been the deadliest year on record for transwomen in the United States, far surpassing the total dead from last year with three months yet to go.
The trans* community needs to stop holding tearful and candlelit vigils and start holding angry rallies demanding an end to violence and discrimination against transgender people, an end to misgendering and shoddy reporting by police and news sources.
We need to hold angry rallies demanding national protection in employment, housing, and services. We need to stop being passive bystanders to murder and discrimination and start becoming active in demanding that this ends here and now. The time for peaceful demonstration has passed.
Maybe it’s time for another Stonewall.