TDOR services set in Dallas, Fort Worth to honor victims of violence
This week across the globe, more than 200 gatherings are taking place to remember those who were murdered because of a differing sense of gender. Friday, Nov. 20, marks the 11th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which began in honor of slain transgender woman Rita Hester in 1999.
For most, the TDOR event will not likely hit too close to home. It may be just another LGBT event that we can’t the find time for.
But to others, like transgender woman "Patsy Masters" of Richardson, the event is a stark reminder of how lucky some are to have escaped the murderous hands of another.
Masters is not ready to come forth and share her full story of how she was almost killed for being a person of differing gender. But she is glad to be alive.
"At the end of the day, some of us do survive. We survive the physical beatings, the rapes and the psychological and emotional abuse," Masters said. "I am one of the lucky ones. I survived."
But she almost didn’t. "When they finally left me face down in a small pond, I am sure they thought I was dead," Masters recalled.
Many more were not as fortunate as Masters. In the year since the last TDOR event, at least 120 transgender individuals have been murdered around the globe.
In the United States, according to Ethan St. Pierre who updates the TDOR statistics, "there continues to be about one murder a month."
St. Pierre, a transgender man and well-known activist, lost his transgender aunt to a brutal murder in 1995. He says he misses his aunt every day. But "on the Day of Remembrance, I think about how she died."
St. Pierre said his aunt was left for dead with multiple 6-inch stab wounds in her chest and with every bone in her neck broken.
He said most transgender murders include such brutal overkill, a horrid element meant "to obliterate us and make us go away."
St. Pierre said that most victims are tortured or burned first. Some are dismembered and decapitated. Others are shot in the face or genitals.
Tori Van Fleet, a forensic scientist for the city of Fort Worth, has been witness to transgender crime scenes. Van Fleet was part of a crime team that solved the murder of Savannah, Ga., transgender woman Charles "Sissy" Bolden 10 years ago. Incidentally, this was before Van Fleet herself came out as a transgender woman.
Van Fleet was able to match markings on a bullet fired from a gun recovered through a pawn shop to markings on a bullet found in Bolden’s body. She received a commendation for putting Bolden’s murderer behind bars.
Van Fleet said, "I’ve worked firearms cases involving transgendered people, so the TDOR means just a little more to me. Some day, I hope the need to add people to the list will cease."
She said until that day, she will do her part in honoring those that have lost their lives and bring what attention she can to their deaths.
In the United States, at least 13 persons of differing gender were murdered in the year since the 2008 TDOR event. They include:
• Transgender woman Taysia Elzy, 34, and her roommate Michael Hunt, 22, of Indianapolis, shot to death in their apartment on Christmas Day, 2008. Christopher Rodgers-Conwell, 20, confessed to the crime, but the motive has never been made clear.
• Caprice Darnell Curry, assaulted and stabbed to death in the streets of the Tenderloin District in San Francisco on Jan. 17, 2009. She was 31 years old. A 63-year-old man, Tommy Thomas, was arrested for the stabbing.
• Thirty-four-year-old Jimmy McCollough, who performed in drag as "Imaje Devera" in Fayetteville, N.C. He was found stabbed to death on April 14, 2009, behind a nightclub. Zachary Lee Oaks, 22, was charged with first degree murder in connection with McCollough’s death.
• Foxy Ivy, fatally shot in the back of the head on May 25, 2009, in Detroit. No other details were available.
• Christopher Jermaine Scott, found dead on July 1, 2009 in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Reported as a "transvestite prostitute" by the Philadelphia Daily News, Scott, 36, was shot multiple times in the face and torso.
• Forty-two-year-old Teri Benally, who was found beaten and later died in the hospital on July 7, 2009 in Albuquerque, N.M. Police reported Benally may have been meeting someone she met online.
• Frederick Kelly Watson, 32, a crossdresser reported to have been arrested four times for prostitution. Watson was killed a month before Benally.
• Cesar Torres, 39, was found murdered on July 9, 2009, in El Paso. He died from blunt force trauma. Autopsy reports revealed broken ribs, a broken nose, a ruptured liver and a number of stab wounds. Police arrested Torres’ partner, Michael Manuel Herrera, later that month in connection with the murder.
• Twenty-one-year-old Eric Lee, stabbed to death on July 26, 2009, in New Orleans. He was a famous drag performer and singer known as BeyoncÃ©.
• Tylia Mack, also 21, stabbed to death on the street in broad daylight in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 26, 2009.
• Two days later on the opposite coast, Paulina Ibarra was also stabbed to death. The 24-year-old was found dead in her apartment in East Hollywood.
• An unidentified person dressed in women’s clothing, found unconscious and bleeding in northeast Baltimore on Oct. 25, 2009. She later died at Johns Hopkins hospital.
• And most recently, Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, 19, whose body was dumped on an isolated road near Cayey, Puerto Rico on Nov. 14, 2009. Mercado was burned, decapitated and dismembered. Twenty-six-year-old Juan Martinez Matos was arrested earlier this week and charged with first-degree murder.
There are more than 100 other murders of transgender individuals around the globe, many of them reported as hate crimes, but many still are not.
Masters offered a short prayer to honor those that have fallen victim and who, unlike her, did not survive: "To all of my sisters and brothers that did not wake up, thank you for watching down on us and giving us the strength to face these injustices as we remember you today."
Renee Baker is a transgender diversity consultant and may be found online at GenderPower.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 20, 2009.