271 transgender people lost in 2015 will be memorialized in TDOR events



JAMES RUSSELL  |  Staff Writer

In January, Ty Underwood was shot and killed in her car in Tyler. She is believed to have been escaping her attacker and former lover, Carlton Ray Champion, 21, who was later arrested. Underwood was 24.

In July, Shade Schuler’s badly decomposing body was found in a vacant lot off Riverside Drive in Dallas. Miss Shade, as she preferred to be called, was only identified by a few tattoos on her body, and her gender identity not confirmed until later. There are still no leads in the murder of the 22-year-old transgender woman.

These two transgender women of color were among the 271 transgender people lost this year around the world, according to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project. Of these, an estimated 26 were murdered in the U.S. They will be honored during Transgender Day of Remembrance services across the country on Friday, Nov. 20.

Jabriel Williamson is the organizer of Transforming in Light of Peace, a memorial sponsored by three local black trans advocacy groups, where Yolanda Ford Underwood, Ty’s mother, will speak.

While the event is about the transgender community, these murders impact everyone, Williamson said, which makes the Legacy of Love monument, at the intersection of Cedar Springs and Oak Lawn, a perfect location.

“With all the violence along Cedar Springs recently, it’s perfect we are holding it in the neighborhood; an event like this can bring communities together,”

Williamson said. “We’re honoring all the transgender lives lost, but with our location we really are honoring all lives.”

Renee Baker, a trans woman and counselor who specializes in trans issues, agreed.

“Transgender equality is about achieving equality for everyone. We want equality for all. Transgender equality is a stepping-stone to gender equality and broader definitions of masculinity and femininity. We should live organically,” Baker said.

But between the annual memorials, what else can be done? An event is not enough to bring awareness to challenges facing trans men and trans women.

If you need proof of the necessity of fighting stigma and raising awareness around trans issues, look no further than Houston, which became ground zero for transgender scapegoating and discrimination during the recent referendum over the city’s equal rights ordinance

Opponents of HERO, as the ordinance was known, described it as a “bathroom ordinance” that would “allow men into women’s bathrooms.” Their strategy won: HERO was repealed by a whopping 61-percent-to-39-percent vote.

“There’s a tendency to defer to people who say they are ‘not comfortable’ having transgender folks in bathrooms,” Baker said. “Well it’s not about comfort, but rights and individuals.”

When faced with a prevailing transphobic narrative, battling bathroom ordinances comes down “to principles or money,” Baker said. “We could design bathrooms everyone uses peacefully.” Unisex bathrooms, she suggested, are already widely used. Moving from bathrooms confined within the gender binary to unisex bathrooms could be an option.

Even as unisex or gender nonspecific bathrooms are gaining popularity, such accommodations are not the only answer. Nondiscrimination ordinances are still needed.

“Trans women and trans men can still use bathrooms even without HERO,” Baker said. “But they can also be tossed out of public spaces and denied employment without much recourse.”

In the absence of state protections, “we’ll probably rely on the federal government to implement protections,” Baker said.

Finn Jones is vice president of DFW Trans-Cendence, a transgender support and peer group for youth and their families. Support groups are as important as educating the public and policies protecting transgender individuals, Jones said.

“Too often we see or hear from transgender teenagers who have been thrown out of their house onto the streets because the parents did not take the time to educate themselves about gender identities,” Jones said. “All [parents] see is that their child did not live up to ‘their’ dream of who their child would become.”

Whether it’s with a parent, a child, aunt, uncle or even just a friend, support begins at home.

“And support is not just saying you support that person, but being an active participant in that support,” Jones said. “Educate yourself, attend support groups like ours with them, offer to go to counseling with them, use the correct pronouns, show respect and empower that individual to be the person they truly want to become.”

Unfortunately, Williamson said, a lot of people do not have enough time to volunteer with support groups.

“A lot of our volunteers try to commit 40 hours a month to the organization. But we run into the issue where people want to but cannot commit the time,”

Williamson said. “Unfortunately there are just not enough resources for transgender people of color.”

But like Baker, Jones acknowledges that policies and political allies are important too.

“But a change needs to happen in our legislation as well. Get out and vote. We need more allies on our side to vote for us,” Jones said.

Transgender advocates know the somber day of remembrance is necessary, however.

“Hopefully one day we won’t have events like TDOR. But for now we must shed light on transgender lives,” Williamson said.


TDOR Events: Nov. 20

•  Transforming in the Light of Peace
Candlelight vigil and rally from 6-8 p.m. at the Legacy of Love Monument at the intersection of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs. Guest speaker is Yolanda Ford Underwood, mother of Ty Underwood, a black transwoman murdered in Tyler in January.
•  Brite Divinity School Memorial Service
7 p.m. at Brite Divinity School, 2925 Princeton St., Fort Worth.
A full list of events can be found at TheTaskForce.org/transmonth.


Transgender Resource and Support Groups

• DFW Transcendence Trans/SOFFA Meeting is a trans and ally support group meeting monthly on the first and third Tuesdays from 7–9 p.m. at Agape MCC, 4615 East California Parkway, Fort Worth. For more information, visit DFWtranscendence.com or contact Finn Jones by phone at 214-499-0378 or by email at sfinn.jones@gmail.com.

• DFW Trans Ladies Monthly Meeting from 7-8:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month at Agape MCC, 4615 E. California Parkway, Fort Worth. For more information email info@dfwtgladies.org or visit DFWTGLadies.org.

• Fort Worth Transgender Resource Group is a support and resource group meeting every second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Barron House, 516 College Ave., Fort Worth. Use side door. For more information visit FortWorth-transgender.org/home/index.php.

• Resource Center runs four programs for the transgender community through its Gender, Education, Advocacy and Resources program. They include: GEAR Women’s Group, a monthly meeting discussing topics relating to feminine gender identity and transitioning from 6-8 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month at Resource Center, 2701 Reagan St. For more information call 214-528-0144 or email gear@myresourcecenter.org. GEAR: Men’s Group, a monthly meeting discussing topics relating to masculine gender identity and transitioning meets on the last Wednesday of the month from 6-8 p.m. at Resource Center, 2701 Reagan St. For more information call 214-528-0144 or email gear@myresourcecenter.org. GEAR Monthly Mixer, a monthly meeting providing opportunities to make new friends and learn more about GEAR in a casual environment from 7–9 p.m. on the last Thursday each month at Resource Center, 2701 Reagan St. For more information and to R.S.V.P. call 214-528-0144 or email gear@myresourcecenter.org. GEAR Voice Feminization Support Group, a monthly training for studying and practicing voice feminization from 2-4 p.m. at Resource Center, 2701 Reagan St. Free, but seating is limited to 30. For more information call 214-528-0144 or e-mail gear@myresourcecenter.org.

Transgender Education Network of Texas is dedicated to furthering gender diversity awareness and education across Texas through education and networking in both public and private forums. For more information visit TransTexas.org.

Trans Pride Initiative is a local transgender advocacy group helping transgender and gender nonconforming individuals gain access equal healthcare, housing, employment, and education. It hosts two meeting open to the public. Network Affiliates meetings are networking events for transgender organizations and service providers at 7 p.m. at Brazos Room, Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak Street. TPI Board meetings are at 6:30 p.m. at Brazos Room, Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak Street. For more information visit Tpride.org or e-mail Nell Gaither at nell@tpride.org.

North Texas Gender Friends is an online support community. For more information visit NTGF.org.

Black Transmen Inc. is a local advocacy, empowerment and support group for black transgender men through all stages of transitioning. Resources include a national hotline, the annual Gender and Advocacy Conference, scholarships and more. For more information visit BlackTransmen.org.

Trans Lifeline is a nonprofit private hotline for transgender people experiencing a crisis as well as a resource staffed by transgender people. Volunteers are ready to connect callers to resources and prevent self-harm. For more information and a full schedule visit TransLifeline.org.

The Trevor Project is a nonprofit resource center for LGBT youth. Resources include the crisis intervention hotline Trevor Lifeline, TrevorChat, TrevorText, TrevorSpace and Trevor Support Center. All hotlines and messaging services are confidential. For more information visit TheTrevorProject.org.


Transgender men and women lost this year

Transgender murders in the U.S. in the last year
1.    Melvin, 30, Detroit, Mich.
2.    Keyshia Blige, 33, Aurora, Ill.
3.    Tamara Dominguez, 36, Kansas, City, Mo.
4.    Kandis Capri, 35, Phoenix, Ariz.
5.    Amber Monroe, 20, Detroit, Mich.
6.    Ashton O’Hara, 25, Detroit, Mich.
7.    Shade Schuler, 22, Dallas, Texas
8.    K.S. Haggard, 66, Fresno, Calif.
9.    India Clarke, 22, Tampa, Fla.
10.  Mercedes Williamson, 17, Rocky Creek, Ala.
11.  Penny Proud, 21, New Orleans, La.
12.  Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, 36, San Francisco.
13.  Bri Golec, 22, Akron, Ohio
14.  Lamia Beard, 30, Norfolk, Virg.
15.  Papi Edwards, 20, Louisville, Ky.
16.  Ty Underwood, 24, Tyler, Texas
17.  Yazmin Vash Payne, 17, Los Angeles, Calif.
18.  Kristina Gomez, 46, Miami, Fla.
19.  Mya Hall, 27, Baltimore, Md.
20.  London Chanel, 21, Philadelphia, Penn.
21.  Jasmine Collins, 22, Saint Petersburg, Fla.
22.  Elisha Walker, 20, Smithfield, S.C.
23.  Kiesha Jenkins, 22, Philadelphia, Penn.
24.  Zella Ziona, 21, Gaithersburg, Md.
25. Gizzy Fowler, 24, Nashville, Tenn.
26. Keymori Shatoya Johnson, 24, Albany, Ga.

Transgender suicides in the U.S. in the last year
1.    Emmett Castle
2.    Melonie Rose
3.    Zander Mahaffey
4.    Aubrey Marike Shine
5.    Ash Haffner
6.    Sage David
7.    Taylor Wells
8.    Blake Brockington
9.    Ezra Page
10.  Taylor Alenana
11.  Sam Taub
12.  Rachel Bryk
13.  Cameron Langrell
14.  Kyler Prescott
15.  Jess Ships
16.  Sam Ehly
17.  Skylar Marcus Lee
18.  Andy Woodhouse
19.  Jay Ralka
20.  Leelah Alcorn
21.  Ashley Hallstrom

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 20 2015.