TDOR: ‘Everyone deserves to be mourned’

Services planned this weekend in Dallas and Fort Worth to remember, honor the more than 200 trans people murdered worldwide in the last year

Marcal-Tye

Marcal Camero Tye

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Marcal Camero Tye, 25, was a friendly, outgoing young woman who got along well with most people in the small town of Forrest City, Ark., where she lived — despite the fact that she was openly transgender in such a conservative atmosphere.

But sometime after leaving a party at a friend’s house on the evening of March 7, somebody murdered Marcal Tye.

Investigators say that Tye, whose body was found early in the morning of March 8 on a rural road outside Forrest City, was shot in the head and then run over by a car, her body apparently getting caught in the vehicle’s undercarriage and dragged for some distance.

St. Frances County Sheriff Bobby May has insisted that the killing was just “a regular murder” and not a hate crime. But those who knew Tye and LGBT activists who have been following the crime believe Tye was killed because she was transgender.

Marcal Tye is just one of the 22 trans people murdered over the last 12 months who will be remembered by name during Transgender Day of Remembrance services on Sunday at the Interfaith Peace Chapel in Dallas. And she is just one of 221 trans people murdered worldwide in the last year, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project.

Transgender Day of Remembrance began in November 1999 when trans activists and their allies gathered in San Francisco for a candlelight vigil to remember Rita Hester, a trans woman who had been stabbed to death a year earlier in her apartment in Allston, Mass., just outside of Boston.

Her murder has never been solved.

“There had been a candlelight vigil the year before in December, right after she was killed, there in Boston. But a year later, people felt the need to do something to bring attention to her murder and to the murders of other trans people,” explained Erin Roberts, one of the organizers of this year’s TDOR service.

“Just six weeks before Rita Hester was murdered, Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming, and that made headlines around the world. Everybody was talking about his murder, talking about doing something about hate crimes. But when Rita Hester was killed, very few people paid any attention. It seemed like nobody really paid attention when a trans person was murdered,” Robert said.

“And it’s not that we have any problem with all the publicity around Matthew Shepard’s murder. It was a horrible thing, and it deserved that attention,” Roberts continued. “But there was just such a stark contrast in the way the two murders were treated, especially in the press. People wanted to do something to bring attention to the fact that trans people are murdered every day in horrible, brutal ways.”

Also on the list of those killed in the past 12 months are six trans women who were killed in a 60-day period in the Honduras, beginning last November. The most recent additions to the list of 22 are 19-year-old Shelley Hilliard, who was killed then decapitated, dismembered and burned on Oct. 23 in Detroit; and Jessica Rollon, 32, who was strangled to death in Bergamo, Italy on Oct. 30.

Roberts pointed out that when transgender people are killed, the murders are often characterized by extreme violence and “overkill.” They aren’t just shot, they are shot and beaten. They aren’t just stabbed, they are stabbed over and over and over.

“And as long as trans people continue to be dehumanized, it will continue to happen,” Roberts said. “We are real people, with real emotions. We feel love and pain and joy and sorrow, just like anyone else. But people don’t see us that way. They see us as ‘other,’ and something besides regular human beings.”

Roberts said this week that “one of the last things I did as a boy” was to attend TDOR services last year in Dallas. And after transitioning earlier this year, she said, she got involved in helping organize this year’s service. And she will do it again next year, too.

“As long as we continue to be killed and brutalized, we will continue to have Transgender Day of Remembrance events,” Roberts said. “Because everyone deserves to be mourned.”

TDOR services in Dallas will be held Sunday, Nov. 20, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. The evening will include a performance by the singing group Mosaic and speeches by Rafael McDonnell with Resource Center Dallas, Roberts, Oliver Blumer and Rosemarie Odom.

The names of the 20 victims will be read aloud, and flowers will be placed on the podium in memory of each one. There will also be a candlelight vigil.
Blumer and Nell Gaither were co-organizers of the event with Roberts.

Fort Worth TDOR

Agape Metropolitan Community Church of Fort Worth and Trinity Metropolitan Community Church of Arlington are joining forces to hold an interfaith gathering for TDOR on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m. at Agape MCC, 4615 E. California Parkway in southeast Fort Worth.

The Rev.  Stephen V. Sprinkle from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University will speak on the topic “Unfinished Lessons,” explaining “five lessons that LGBTQ hate crimes murder victims have to teach us, if we will only learn them.”

Tori Van Fleet, a forensics expert with the Fort Worth Police Department who came out as a trans women when she joined the fight to get the city of Fort Worth to add protections for trans people to its nondiscrimination ordinance, will also speak during the service.

Van Fleet said this week, “I am looking forward to the day when the TDOR bells are silent due to there not being any more violence against my transgender brothers and sisters. Until then, we will continue to bring attention to the violence we face due to bigotry, hate, fear and even misinformation, simply for being ourselves and trying to live our lives as best we can.”

Several Brite Divinity student clergy have also been active in planning and will participate in the service through music, media and readings.

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REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS

The 20 trans people who will be remembered by name during Transgender Day of Remembrance services Sunday in Dallas are:

Idania Roberta Sevilla Raudales, 58, Comayagüela City, Honduras; died Nov. 29, 2010; had her throat slit.

Luisa Alvarado Hernández, 23,Comayagüela City, Honduras; died Dec. 22, 2010; was stoned, beaten and burned.

• Lady Óscar Martínez Salgado, 43, Tegucigalpa, Honduras; died Dec. 22, 2010; was burned and stabbed.

• Reana ‘Cheo’ Bustamente, age unknown, Tegucigalpa, Honduras; died Dec. Jan. 2, 2011; was stabbed multiple times in the chest.

• Génesis Briget Makaligton, mid-20s, Comayagüela City, Honduras; died Jan. 7, 2011; was strangled to death.

• Krissy Bates, 45, Minneapolis, Minn.; died Jan. 10, 2011; was stabbed multiple times.

• Fergie Alice Ferg, age unknown, San Pedro Sula, Honduras; died Jan. 18, 2011; was shot multiple times in the head and chest.

• Tyra Trent, 25, Baltimore, Md.; died Feb. 19, 2011; was strangled to death.

• Priscila Brandão, 22, Belo Horizonte, Brazil; died March 2, 2011; was shot in the head.

• Marcal Camero Tye, 25, Forrest City, Ark.; died March 8, 2011; was shot in the head, run over and dragged by a car.

• Shakira Harahap, 28, Taman Lawang, Jakarta, Indonesia; died March 10, 2011; was shot to death.

• Miss Nate Nate (or Née) Eugene Davis, 44, Houston; died June 13, 2011; was shot to death., Washington, D.C.; died July 20, 2011; was shot to death.

• Didem, 26, Findikzade, Istanbul; died July 31, 2011; had her throat slit.

• Camila Guzman, 38, New York City; died Aug. 1, 2011; was stabbed repeatedly in the back and neck.

• Gaby, age unknown, Jalisco, Mexico; died Aug. 6, 2011; was beaten and burned.

• Unidentified male dressed in women’s clothes, estimated age 30; Paris, France; was stabbed to death.

• Gaurav Gopalan, 35, Washington, D.C.; died Sept. 10, 2011; suffered subarachnoid hemorrhage due to blunt-force head trauma.

• Ramazan Çetin, 24, Gaziantep, Turkey; died Oct. 6, 2011; was shot to death by her brother who claimed to be defending the family’s honor.

• Shelley Hilliard, 19, Detroit, Mich.; died Oct.23 but body was not identified until Nov. 10; was killed, decapitated, dismembered and burned.

• Jessica Rollon, 32, Bergamo, Italy; died Oct. 30, 2011; was strangled to death.

• Astrid Carolina López Cruz, 30, Madrid, Spain; died Nov. 4, 2011; was beaten and stabbed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

LANDMARK EVENT

SUCCESS | Lisa Blue Baron, center, keynote speaker for the Landmark Dinner held Aug. 13 at the W Hotel is pictured with Lambda Legal Leadership Committee member Brian Bleeker and Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. The event raised more than $120,000 for Lambda Legal. (Photo courtesy Debra Gloria)

—  John Wright

LOCAL BRIEFS: HRC and LULAC hold Cinco de Mayo

The Human Rights Campaign will partner with the local LGBT chapter of LULAC — The Dallas Rainbow Council to celebrate Cinco De Mayo.

The annual Salsa Cocktails event —featuring dancers, food and high-energy music — takes place at Havana, 4006 Cedar Springs Road, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 5.

“We have already confirmed Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez as one of our speakers,” said Kimberly Williams, HRC event coordinator. “Our dance group will also offer free salsa dance lessons for our guests.”

HRC and LULAC will talk about recent national and local successes. The public is invited to attend. The event is free, although a $20 donation to HRC at the door will get two free cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

“Both HRC and LULAC will have information about membership and ways to get active,” said Jesse Garcia, president of LULAC 4871. “We have great projects coming up this summer. We invite community members ready to get involved to come learn about opportunities to further equality.”

—  John Wright

No new leads in trans woman’s murder

Shooting death of Marcal Tye in Northeast Arkansas raises specter of string of unsolved trans murders in nearby Memphis; activists say homophobia, transphobia still rampant in states’ rural areas

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

Investigators with the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Department in Arkansas have no new leads in the March 8 murder of transgender woman Marcal Tye, according to Chief Deputy Gene Wingo.

“It’s kind of at a standstill right now,” Wingo said in a telephone interview Wednesday, March 16. “We have a lot of phone records and stuff to check, still, and that’s about all I can say right now.”

Tye, 25, was found shot to death in a rural area right outside the Forrest City limits early on March 8, and evidence at the scene indicated her body had been dragged by a car. Wingo confirmed that investigators had found two .32-caliber shell casings and had made plaster casts of tire tracks found at the scene.

Special Agent Steve Frazier with the FBI office in Little Rock on Wednesday confirmed that the FBI has “a pending civil rights violation investigation under way” and is assisting the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Department with the investigation.

Frazier said he was unable to comment further because the case is pending.

According to media reports immediately after the murder, a friend said Tye had been at a party at a friend’s house on Monday night, March 7, and had left there saying she was going home.
Tye’s body was discovered in the early morning hours on March 8 by a motorist on Hwy. 334, just outside Forrest City, who notified authorities.

Possible hate crime

Because news reports published right after the body was discovered seemed to indicate that Tye’s body had been deliberately dragged behind a car either just before or after she was shot, LGBT activists from Little Rock, about 95 miles to the west, and Memphis, about 45 miles to the east, immediately raised the possibility Tye had been the victim of an anti-transgender hate crime.

Arkansas does not have a state hate crimes law, but the federal Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crimes Act passed in 2009 does include transgenders.

But St. Francis County Sheriff Billy May has since said several times that the shooting was “an ordinary murder” and not a hate crime. He said that while Tye’s body had been dragged by a car, the dragging appears to have been accidental.

May told reporters that Tye was shot to death and then the suspect appears to have tried to “straddle” her body with a vehicle while driving away, and that Tye’s body inadvertantly got snagged on the undercarriage of the vehicle. May said that tire tracks at the scene indicated the driver had stopped and backed up in an attempt to dislodge Tye’s body.

Frazier said the FBI has made no determination on whether the murder was a hate crime. That determination, he said, is based on evidence and the evidence gathered so far in the Tye murder is not conclusive either way.

But activists in the Arkansas capital of Little Rock, about 95 miles west of Forrest City, and in Memphis, Tenn., about 45 miles east, still believe anti-trans phobia played a role in the killing.

Murders in Memphis

The murder hits an especially raw nerve in Memphis, where at least three trans women have been murdered since 2006. And activists say many others have survived brutal attacks.

“Memphis has developed a reputation across the country for being a very dangerous place for transgender women, especially transgender women of color,” said Will Batts, executive director of the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center. “There is a real climate of fear here.”

Batts said that as far as he knows, Tye was not known around the Memphis community center and did not access programs there.

“We do have a transgender group here at the center, but attendance is rather sporadic,” he said. “The trans women are afraid to come here. They don’t want to be seen here, to be publicly identified as transgender.”

One of the murdered Memphis women was Duanna  Johnson, who made headlines nationwide in February 2008 after video of her being beaten by Memphis police officers in a police station booking area was leaked. Johnson survived that attack but nine months later was found murdered in North Memphis, killed by a single gunshot wound to the head.

Two officers involved in Johnson’s beating lost their jobs and faced federal charges, but Memphis authorities never filed any local charges against them.

That lack of action by local authorities is common in cases involving attacks on LGBT people, and especially on trans women.

“We have tried and tried to get a city ordinance [protecting LGBTs] passed here in Memphis and it has always failed,” Batts said. “The community center has been around for 22 years, and it is located in a fairly progressive and diverse part of the city. But other areas of Memphis are much, much more conservative and anti-LGBT.  We have a lot of strong churches in Memphis, a couple of mega-churches, and a lot of our lawmakers have some very strong ties to those churches.”

Marisa Richmond with the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition, headquartered in Nashville, agreed that violence against LGBT people and trans women in particular is “much more common than it should be” in Tennessee and especially in the Memphis area.

“Memphis is, I think, a city that feels under siege, specifically the transgender community and especially African-American trans women,” Richmond said. “We have made some progress here in Nashville, but they just can’t seem to gain any ground in Memphis. I think it is making them very, very frustrated.”

Richmond said that some people have suggested that there may be a serial killer targeting transgender women in the Memphis area, but she says there is no real evidence to support that theory.

“I can’t say that possibility doesn’t exist. But I think it’s not a matter of one person, a serial killer, targeting trans women. It’s the atmosphere, the attitude toward LGBT people, toward trans people, in general that is the problem.”

Reaction in Little Rock

Jeana Huie, coordinator for the youth/young adult program at the Center for Artistic Revolution, an LGBT advocacy organization in Little Rock, said this week, Arkansas also has its progressive havens and pockets of phobia.

“The climate [toward LGBT people] is different in different areas of the state. In places like Little Rock and Eureka Springs, it’s pretty progressive. But in the more rural areas, there’s a lot more hostility, more violence, though most of it is verbal, rather than physical,” Huie said.

“It [physical violence] doesn’t happen a lot, but it does still happen. It probably actually happens more than we realize but it just isn’t reported.”

Huie also said that her organization knew little of Tye or her murder other than what has been reported in the media. And she said that CAR had responded to early media reports that described Tye as a crossdresser, a “man in a dress” and a “man in drag” by trying to educate reporters on the correct language to use in reference to transgender people.
CAR was, she said, pleased at the response they received from media outlets in the area.

“When we saw the language that was being used, we put together some educational materials, including a guide we downloaded from the [Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] on the language to use when reporting on transgenders, and we went to every national affiliate here in the Little Rock area,” Huie said.

“We actually got a really good response. We were a little surprised at how well they responded to us,” she continued. “When it came to the garish headlines and coverage, I think it wasn’t so much about them being homophobic or transphobic, but more about just a lack of knowledge.

“They all told us they were glad that we came to talk to them and they were glad to have the resources we brought them,” she said. “And most of the stories and headlines [that were objectionable] were changed very quickly after that.”

Huie said her organization was not so satisfied, though, with statements by Sheriff Mays in St. Francis County.

“He has made some pretty callous comments , and he continues to use some problematic language,” she said.

Huie said CAR has had no contact with the St. Francis County Sheriff’s Department, but that the organization has been in contact with Department of Justice representatives in Little Rock and with the LGBT liaison in the FBI’s Little Rock office.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

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The Memphis victims

LGBT activists in Memphis say their city has developed a national reputation as a dangerous place for transgender women, especially for trans women of color, in the wake of the murders of at least three African-American trans women there since 2006, and attacks on several more.

Ebony Whitaker

The attacks, according to Will Batts with the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, have created a “climate of fear” in the city.

Trans women who have been murdered or attacked include:

• Tiffany Berry, 21, murdered Feb. 16, 2006 in North Memphis. Berry was shot to death as she exited her apartment, and police soon arrested D’Andre Blake, who allegedly bragged to friends that he had killed Berry because he didn’t like the way she had touched him.
Blake, however, was released on bond of only $20,000, and remained free for more than two years until August 2008, when he was arrested again, this time for the murder of his own 2-year-old daughter.
To date, Blake has not been brought to trial in connection with Berry’s death.

• Ebony Whitaker, 20, murdered July 1, 2008. Whitaker, who relatives later said had had a troubled home life and had received little support or care from her parents, had a history of prostitution dating back to age 16. Her body was found, with a single gunshot wound, in a parking lot near a daycare center in Southeast Memphis.
No one has ever been arrested for Whitaker’s murder, and no suspects have ever been named.

Duanna Johnson

• Duanna Johnson, 43, murdered Nov. 9, 2008. Johnson became the subject of national headlines in February 2008, when a videotape showing two Memphis police officers beating her in the booking area of a Memphis police station was leaked to the press. Johnson said at the time the officers began hitting her after she refused to respond when they spoke to her using anti-trans slurs after she was arrested on prostitution charges.

In the videotape, Officer Bridges McRae is seen striking Johnson repeatedly with his fists and with a pair of handcuffs clutched in one hand as she sits in a chair. A second officer, J. Swain, is seen holding Johnson down as McRae hits her. Both officers were fired and later faced federal charges, although local prosecutors refused to level local charges against them.
Ten months later, Johnson was found lying dead in a downtown Memphis street with a single gunshot wound to the head. No one has ever been arrested in the murder, and no suspects have been named.

• Leeneshia Edwards, shot Dec. 23, 2008. Friends and family members said Edwards worked as a prostitute, and investigators said she appeared to have been in a car with someone and had turned to get out of the vehicle when the suspect shot her at close range in the jaw, side and back.

The attack, which happened in south Memphis, left Edwards in critical condition and she had to undergo several surgeries. No one has ever been arrested in the attack, and no suspect has been named.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Update on murder of Arkansas trans woman

St. Francis County Sheriff Bobby May has said that while his department is waiting on lab reports to determine actual cause of death, trans woman Marcal Camero Tye — found dead early Tuesday near a rural highway outside of Forrest City, Ark. — appeared to have been shot in the head and then dragged by a car, according to WREG tv station out of Memphis.

WREG said Tye was 25, while other news outlets have said she was 24.

May also said he had reports that people nearby the scene had heard two gunshots in the area. Investigators have made plaster impressions of tire tracks at the scene that they hope will help them identify suspects in the murder.

Jennifer Bohannon, identified by WREG as a friend of Tye’s, said she had seen the victim just hours the shooting at her cousin’s house, and that Tye left there saying she was going home. Bohannon said Tye did not try to hide the fact that she was transgender, and Bohannon suggested Tye had been picked up by someone high on drugs and looking for sex, “And when they brought him down here they probably figured out, you know, noticed that he was a “dude” and probably took it from there and shot him and killed him.”

The first reports by WREG identified Tye as “a man wearing women’s clothes,” and used male pronouns to refer to her. However, after complaints by commenters online who suggested the station contact the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for guidelines on reporting on transgender people, the station’s  latest reports identify Tye as transgender, saying she was “born male, but lived as a woman.”

Even though WREG changed its language, other news outlets in Arkansas have not. The Daily World out of Helena, Ark., which identified Tye as a former Helena-West Helena resident, reposted WREG’s original story including the “man in a dress” language. KTHV in Little Rock identified Tye as a “transgender man” and used male pronouns in its online story. And The Republic in Columbus, Ind., posted a story online calling Tye “a man dressed in women’s clothing.”

 

—  admin