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UncategorizedTom's Town: Unacceptable violence against the Trans community

Tom’s Town: Unacceptable violence against the Trans community

Trans women of color are dying in the streets. The time for talk is long past

A large rally on the steps of City Hall this week brought attention to the alarming problem of violence against Trans people
A large rally on the steps of City Hall this week brought attention to the alarming problem of violence against Trans people

By Tom Temprano

FEBRUARY 13, 2015 — In 2015 San Francisco is being faced with a serious question: will we sit idly by as the T is removed from our city’s LGBT community?

The tragic murder of Taja DeJesus on February 1st has brought the harassment, discrimination and violence that trans people, particularly trans women of color, face on a daily if not hourly basis to the fore of San Francisco’s consciousness. And it’s about time.

48hillstemprano2For far too long our city’s LGB population has grown its political and financial power without doing the necessary work of ensuring that our trans sisters and brothers were growing theirs as well. We have known that the trans community faces far more poverty, violence and discrimination in housing, education and yet we have not made righting these wrongs the core platform of our movement. We have under-acted and the consequences are dire.

Taja was taken from us at the age of 36. A trans woman was stabbed in the chest only weeks earlier after being targeted on a Muni bus. Anastasia, a homeless trans woman, died on the street in the Castro on New Years Eve as people passed by her body for hours without stopping to see if she was OK. One out of every two transgender students in our city’s public schools has attempted suicide. And the list goes on and on.

This has to stop.

Where do we start to undo decades of neglect for the needs of trans San Franciscans? The organizers of TAJA’s Coaltition, who organized a massive die-in and protest at City Hall this past Tuesday have made the following demands:

1. We demand that cisgender people end violence against trans* communities, and particularly transgender women of color. Transphobia and violence against trans* people is not a trans* problem. It is a problem rooted in and created by cisgender people, and there is a call to see active support of and participation in local and national efforts to create resources, access and justice for our trans* communities.

  1. Trans* communities need safety and access to resources, not jails. We demand that all plans for a new jail in San Francisco be ceased, and that no new jail construction is included in any City planning or budget with funds being routed instead to trans* community programming, especially re-entry support and anti-violence work, with respect for the depth of work not the quantity.

  2. We demand safe, affordable, and accessible housing for trans people
    . The rising cost of living in San Francisco, fueled by municipal protections for corporate interests at the expense of our most vulnerable residents, has forced countless trans* people into unsafe living situations. Additionally, the massive gentrification of the Mission, Tenderloin, and SOMA neighborhoods in the past two years has displaced countless residents. San Francisco must shift its priorities away from protecting corporations and toward providing affordable housing for all who need it and particularly creating affordable housing services, safe housing programs and more safe spaces for trans* people.

 After Tuesday’s protest, and hours of public comment by trans women of color at the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor David Campos called for a hearing to address the results of a recent report on violence against members of the LGBTQ community. This hearing is a step in the right direction, but the board has neglected the needs of transgender San Franciscans for far too long. When I spoke to Campos’ legislative aide Nate Allbee about how the Board of Supervisors can be better on trans issues he said that “Most people seem happy to discuss their support of the trans community but often when it comes to budget season we’re alone in fighting for funding for organizations that protect and support trans people.”

2015 is the year that San Francisco needs to stop discussing and start acting. Trans women of color are dying in our streets – talk isn’t working. The TAJA Coalition’s 1st stated demand is simple –- as cis-gender allies we need to get off our apathetic asses and stand up for more resources, leadership opportunities and justice for our local trans community. Lives depend on our action so let’s get moving.

Trans-exception from greater LGB consciousness is not just a San Francisco Problem.  I spent much of last week at the Creating Change Conference in Denver, which brings together LGBTQ activists from around the country, and the conference’s most powerful moments came when trans women of color quite literally stole the stage.

The conference’s opening night plenary, which was set to be headlined by the mayor of Denver, was instead headlined by a group of protestors, lead by trans women of color who stormed through the aisles of the Sheraton Hotel’s grand ballroom wielding protest signs and issued their demands that the assembled crowd stand up for trans lives. Frankly, their action was far more powerful and instructive than any planned moment at the conference. It was so effective, as was the simultaneous protest in honor of Jessie Hernandez, a gender non-conforming 17 year old queer

Latina who was shot to death miles from the conference only a week before that the mayor declined to speak. Which was good. It wasn’t his platform to have – it was theirs.

Why are transgender women of color in San Francisco and around the United States protesting so loudly? Because they are being murdered. Five trans women of color, including Taja, have been killed in this country in 2015 alone. That is one per week.

There is an epidemic of structural violence against trans women of color in this country much in the way that there is an epidemic of state violence against Black men in this country. As an LGBT movement, a movement that should be wholly concerned with achieving justice for all of us – not just concerned with how well corporations score on a corporate equality index, I am deeply disappointed that we haven’t done more. In moments like we are faced with today we should be actively inviting racial justice and trans justice voices to be a central in the LGBT movement. They shouldn’t have to protest just to be heard.



Tim Redmond
Tim Redmond has been a political and investigative reporter in San Francisco for more than 30 years. He spent much of that time as executive editor of the Bay Guardian. He is the founder of 48hills.
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  1. Guest, I do not read the other Guest as saying that at all. It sounded to me like advice for being better understood.

  2. Any tactic designed to give an advantage to one race over another, such as denying employment or playing a card, is clearly racism.

  3. Marcos said nothing of the sort. It was Guest @ February 15, 2015 at 6:52 pm who made the case that trans people deserve to be killed unless they genuflect for acceptance.

  4. Guest, I don’t think that marcos was saying that trans people deserve to be killed at all. He was, however, giving prudent advice on which behaviors are persuasive and which are not.

  5. You’re still living in the 80’s when that happened. Keep up. It’s 2015 and there’s going to be 300k libertarians coming in. But why does it matter when you live in WC?

  6. No, I merely agree with marcos that the way forward for trans people is through not out. They will not be accepted by hating on those whose acceptance they seek. Nor will the majority confer equality on them because they feel intimidated, insulted or disregarded.

  7. By that measure, lesbians and gays should have abandoned same sex attraction in order to be accepted. It did not work that way.

    The action of the identity politics zealots have no bearing on the day to day lives of most members of those claimed identities.

    People in groups get to live as they would irrespective of the diktats of the central committee. You just want the identity central committees to be composed of straight, christian, conservative white males with property so that acceptance can be prudently metered.

  8. Guest, I cannot recall Sam ever disclosing anyone’s home address here. Can you provide a citation for your claim?

    Seems to me his only crime is not being a mindless kneejerk socialist.

  9. Gary, there are no community standards. We can call Sam a scumsucking shitlicker and all he can do is to internet stalk with people’s home addresses. And Redmond just sits there and takes it like a political masochist because he likes it.

  10. No, words have meaning and the word racist does not apply here, neither of the definition was met by the piece:

    Racism Definition
    n. noun

    1 The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.

    2 Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

  11. Trans people will gain acceptance by living their lives on their terms. That is not the same as going all Queer Nation on heteros and being in-your-face. If you can’t distinguish between an individual living one’s live on one’s own terms and an organized group engaging in political confrontation, then that’s pretty messed up.

  12. Injecting race into the article is inherently racist. Tom mentioned that the victim was non-white but not that the perp was non-white. Racism, and prejudicial.

  13. Yes, there isn’t evidence of an anti-trans hate crime here and no, this article is not racist. The left identity politics group thinking behind it departs from the position that “the most vulnerable” are pure and unassailable and proceeds from that.

  14. In regards to the tragic death of Taja Dejesus, I don’t understand why this author and so many others keep stressing that her murder was due to the fact that she was a “person of color.” The man who killed her was a “person of color” as well, but I guess stating that is politically incorrect and does not serves the narrative that white people are responsible for all crimes against the trans community, even when they aren’t. The underlying message of this article is racist (against white people). Let’s focus on this terrible crime and preventing further similar crimes, and stop using such crimes to suggest racist implications again any one group.

  15. True, marcos. SF progressives have sought to demonize such a broad cross-section of the population that they have alienated a majority that can win most if not all elections, with a few exceptions.

    When you hate on home-owners, landlords, straight white males, bankers, tech workers, cops, drivers, employers, professionals and anyone who takes a shuttle to work, you’ve really alienated a solid majority of the electorate.

  16. Yes, marcos, it is very possible that there is no anti-trans pogrom, bias or crusade. Several flaws have been identified with the survey and the rest is just anecdotal.

    Another possibility is that trans people in SF act out a lot more than they would in, say, Lubbock Texas. And so encounter a similar level of resistance then they would in another place where they kept on the down low. IOW, they act out to the point where resistance is encountered, and then back off.

    Either way, you are right. Trans people will not gain acceptance by being “in your face” and demanding it. Respect is earned not demanded, and a good start would be to d what gays did and show they can be good productive law-abiding citizens.

  17. No matter what language one uses, there are like 20% of all trans people who flip out if their self conception is not fully ratified in encounters with strangers. I’ve found that trans folks worth working with are quick to stoke mutual respect and don’t spend their times playing language gotcha with everyone. The assumption that gay men somehow landed here as aliens recently and have not had all sorts of non-conformant gender people in our lives over the decades is mistaken.

    What I’m missing here are any clues that there is an anti-trans pogrom going on. If anything, acceptance of trans people is increasing more rapidly as time goes on.

  18. My contention is that the activists not only can’t articulate an agenda that resonates with the broader public and appears to not find that a problem, they can’t articulate an agenda that resonates with the existing progressive community. Why are the same people being photographed bleating into bullhorns, self promotion in lieu of organizing?

    This has devolved into a personal therapy where rage against one’s political failure is projected onto the people who must be appealed to and organized. Naming this failure for what it is is not raging, it is calling the question on failure and demanding that the activists adopt a new approach that has a chance of succeeding.

    “People of color” from what I can tell from my non-political connections by and and large do not see themselves as “people of color” as the identity activists do. Anti-neoliberals do not see themselves represented politically by the (bad) performance art set.

    It is this insularity of activist cliques of which there appears to be a clear track record of failure is worse than the yet to be determined rejection of a progressive agenda by the newcomers. They have never been approached due to the prejudice that Jennifer articulates above. That is a prejudice that ratifies identity politics, where one’s politics can be ascertained by one’s demographics, membership in constructed groups of varying levels of privilege of oppression. No elections would have been won in the 2000s had this theory held.

    There is no evidence in the historical record of such an approach working over time in a reformist context. Please stop digging the hole deeper and adapt or perish.

  19. @Guest : Let’s be clear – I am not ‘upset’ at all. Just as I am not civil to a mosquito, I squash trolls.

    It isn’t that I disagree with Guest/Sam. It is his inability to stick to community standards regarding obsessive posting, dominating every thread, gloating, name-calling, etc.

    And yes, me calling him names does also violate those community standards. But seriously, if I am held accountable for that, somebody needs to hold him accountable for his violations of community standards as well.

    Make no mistake – I apologized to everyone but Sam. I do not apologize to him.

  20. Its not implying anything. Its saying straight-up that if that is going to make people look “bad” in some peoples eyes, than it is better to work with those who aren’t already stuck in a cultural bubble. There are plenty of people that understand the issues and the cultural dynamics that exist within society, and frankly, its a waste of time to work with the segment of society that has already made up their mind.

    Change comes from within. Nowadays there is plenty of exposure to other backgrounds and lifestyles that if someone truly wants to embrace something different in their life, they are free to do so.

    The fact that so-called anger and bitterness detract is universal. Are you suggesting that a small segment of a given group is a reflection on an entire group of people?

    May I ask in what sense are you a minority? Because I find it ironic when someone who is in the “majority” makes these types of statements. There is no “convincing” to be made to anyone. You accept other people or you don’t. No time to try to appeal to people who are on the fence about these issues. If at ones core they do not believe in equality, liberty and justice for all, then whats the point?

  21. That implies nobody can or will ever change their minds. I think people do transform their opinions about minority groups, although typically that takes a long time.

    But anger and bitterness detract from any message of acceptance and tolerance. If the general public perceive TG folks as being abusive and insulting to anyone who disagrees with them, then their cause could be sent backwards.

    Same goes for anyone seeking any kind of change. Being dismissed as a cranky whiner and hater is rarely persuasive. A minority has to seek to understand the majority before they can convince them to be accepting.

  22. I agree that maybe he could chill out with those types of attacks on guest. Heck, he even owns up to it. But how do his comments make trans and their allies look bad? I’m an ally and think people who see the aforementioned groups in a negative light will continue to do so regardless.

  23. A good start might be by not inventing and using a label like “cisgendered” to describe anyone who isn’t transgendered.

    Partly because I doubt that more than 2% of the population know what that neologism is supposed to mean. And partly because the way to persuade someone is typically not to first categorize and stereotype them.

    Respect comes from giving respect.

  24. A good start might be by not inventing and using a label like “cisgendered” to describe anyone who isn’t transgendered.

    Partly because I doubt that more than 2% of the population know what that neologism is supposed to mean. And partly because the way to persuade someone is typically not to first categorize and stereotype them.

    Respect comes from giving respect.

  25. Hopefully the advice you have received here can help you with that. I can never imagine hating someone just because they hold a different political outlook.

    As MLK memorably said: “We must learn how to disagree without being disagreeable”

  26. “We demand that cisgender people end violence against trans* communities, and particularly transgender women of color.”

    What are we supposed to do, call a meeting of “cis” people and pass a motion to end violence?

    The way that lesbians and gays marginalized violence against us was by telling our stories to our families, neighbors and co-workers over a period of decades. Trans people need to tell their own stories, non-trans people cannot tell those stories because those stories are different than ours. And trans people would benefit by asking for our solidarity for their campaign to tell their stories outside of the comfort zone instead of asking us to do their work for them.

    We non-trans cannot command other non-trans to do right by trans.

  27. Your apology is appreciated, Gary.

    It also cannot be good for you to be so relentlessly angry. A more mellow and light-hearted approach to the debates here will be better for everyone here, including yourself.

  28. 1) Teresa Sparks is neutral on the subject of transgendered folks? Really?

    2) If most of that violence was DV-related then a very conclusion must be drawn.

    3) Where is this alleged fact documented?

    4) Yes, and that is self-reported and therefore subject to bias and self-interest, as noted earlier

    5) I’m not the one trying to sell a story here. My job is to critique flimsy studies and this is one.

  29. Apologies to both of you. I accept that I am ‘lashing out’ and maybe that is inappropriate.

    Sam is a racist, writing this on another blog about the recently evicted African American landmark Marcus Books: “That racist blacks-only book store in the Western Addition got away with that for years…”

    He has written other despicable comments on this blog and tends to dominate every thread with 30-60% of all the posts. It is impossible to have a thoughtful discussion when he is compelled to respond to almost every post.

    He belittles people, when he disagrees he tells them that they to grow up, he talks about those who support social programs as being ‘communists’ and refers to non-whites as ‘colored people.’

    Trans issues are very important to me and I was hoping that Sam would allow a conversation, but sadly that isn’t going to happen.

    To me, Sam’s obsessive posts and the need to have the ‘last word’ feels like a form of ‘blog bullying.’

    So yes, I have a take no prisoners approach to Sam, and I don’t care how he feels about it. But I never considered how other commenters, such as both of you, would be affected by it.

    I just learned a lesson.

    Again, apologies.

  30. First time visitor to this site and I agree. This Gary guy is off his meds and making trans individuals and allies look bad.

  31. Gary, I don’t understand why you need to be so nasty in every thread. We get it, you disagree with Sam. Fine, but by constantly calling him a shitstain and all of your other charming insults you are just making the comments section worse for everybody. Mellow out. Ignore him. Grow up. Or get a life. Or all of the above. JFC

  32. 1) Failing to see how the Human Rights Commission, a part of the SF city government, is comparable to the GOP. On those standards, what would not be biased? Perhaps a donor from New Hampshire that has never been to SF or met a trans person? Given to an all straight research team at the University of Iowa?

    2) If you feel that way, then work with the information to separate IPV into the statistical standard that you personally prefer. The way the information, like all research ever performed, is interpreted is not without questions and revisits like this. It does not, however, throw out the overwhelming conclusions produced.

    3) There is lack of cultural competency in the police department on how to work with gender nonconforming individuals. As individuals have bad interactions with the police, they are less likely to report or believe that anything can be resolved through this channel. This is something that the police need to accountable for, and it’s unfair to expect the trans community to solely do the labor of producing more responsive police agencies.

    4) Yes, and the survey also asked about actual experiences with violence as well as experiences with services in the city for victims of silence. It does feel a bit as if your insistence on this one category is derailing.

    5) That sounds like a wonderful, important project. Perhaps you can fund it and conduct it!

  33. Gary, take away the survey results and Tom’s arguments amount to little more than a few isolated anecdotes.

    If he is going to predicate his policy ideas on a problem indicated by a survey, then we are entitled to question that survey’s credentials and credibility.

    That said, if you do not enjoy debating me, you are free to refrain from commenting. I promise that I won’t mind, and it may be better for your mental health if you struggle to control your anger.

  34. No Sam, it isn’t the case that “we’re just talking here.” No what is happening is that, once again, you are derailing the conversation by focusing upon a tangent to prevent thoughtful discourse about a topic that is of NO importance to you.

    Why don’t you let those of us who care about the lives of our trans brothers and sisters have a discussion without you AGAIN complaining about the survey, which was just ONE component of the article?

    Or maybe just limit yourself to one post about how awful the survey is and then get on with your life?

  35. Gary, I hope you can get some help with your anger issues. Disagreements are healthy and normal, and no reason to turn spiteful.

  36. 1) So if the GOP hired a polling group to produce a survey, you would not be suspect? If they presented the results, that would not bother you?

    2) Any DV-related violence should be excised.

    3) If TG folks aren’t reporting these crimes then how can they reasonably expect them to be solved?

    4) Point is that some feelings can be irrational. I might be scared in a safe place, and feel safe in a scary place. I cannot influence how you feel.

    5) I know, but without that comparison, it is impossible to determine if there really is a problem here, even if the rest of the survey is correct.

  37. I’ll take that as your admission that you cannot refute any of my five points.

    Why always so angry, Gary? We’re just talking here.

  38. 1) Yes, the neutral group is called Learning for Action, the independent research group that wrote the report and gathered data. The nonprofit organizations involved operate to disseminate the work throughout the community and to their respective constituencies.

    2) Seeing as how this information can isolate the relationship to the perpetrator, still failing to see you point here.

    3) There is not objective data. Much of these acts are not reported to police or any kind of agency, and if it is, mostly does not track gender/sexuality.

    4) Again, seeing as how this is one of the multiple questions addressed in the work I fail to see you point. I don’t think feelings are misleading. I think what is misleading is the belief that claims of feeling unsafe can only be taken seriously when it results in an act of violence rather the knowledge of a culture of violence where you live and work. Do you have to be struck down in the street after feeling unsafe for years before you can speak “objectively” to the environment in which you reside?

    5) Again, not part of the scope of the project.

  39. Of course feelings and perceptions are subjective. Anyone can feel anything they want, regardless of reality or relevance.

    If the survey claimed only to describe how TG folks feel, that would be fine. But it made claims well beyond that, and those claims remain unproven.

    To the other, yes, I think trans people are very different from, say, gay males. The fact that Anastasia died in the gayest part of the city and was ignored by hundreds of gay men walking by to grab their lattes speaks to a fundamental disconnect there.

  40. Stop pretending you care about trans lives. You are here to disrupt and detract from the actual topic. You are a racist and should be banned.

  41. The post from guest in nonsense. Those methods used for the survey are widely accepted by pollsters around the country. Perception of safety, like the all-important perception of the economy or ‘consumer confidence’ is deemed to be very important. Also, self-reporting is the MOST used method for collecting information. I was just administered a survey yesterday and nobody ‘fact checked’ what I wrote.

    Regarding gays and lesbians, but mostly gay men, what disturbs me is that a vocal minority want to decouple the T from LGBT. They claim that it is because our issues are different but my gut tells me that it is because many are embarrassed by being linked with trans people.

    The truth is that Stonewall Riot was largely a ‘trans’ event, so we are standing on the shoulders of brave trans activists who fought for our rights.

    But even if it wasn’t a trans event, there is little that distinguishes us apart in the eyes of those who hate us and there is no reason to be less inclusive. United we stand; divided we fall.

  42. Yes, that’s really the same question I was asking when I asked how much of this violence is domestic or within a relationship? Or happening in places where such people go to meet?

  43. Responses:

    1) If you wouldn’t trust a survey on gay marriage from the religious right, then why would you trust a survey about queer folks conducted by queers. There has to be a neutral group who has no skin in the game with more credibility than either extreme.

    2) I know, and it should. DV is really orthogonal to this but may be a factor driving the numbers here, especially if such relationships are more stressful.

    3) There absolutely is objective data. If i claimed that 90% of crimes are committed by blacks, you’d demand to see arrest and conviction data. I’m demanding the same rather than unsubstantiated claims

    4) Feelings can be highly misleading. If I told you I feel that blacks are all criminals or gay people are devils, would you grant me the same credibility as you are asking me to accept here?

    5) The point was that if the claim was that 30% of queer folks have experienced some form of violence then that is not a problem if 40% of everyone else has also experienced violence. There is a baseline level of violence in our society that happens regardless of gender or orientation.

  44. Who’s perpetrating the violence? Is cis- the only demographic marker?

    Why target jails for as the budget item to be targeted? Surely something needs to be done with the criminals attacking the trans members of the community.

  45. 1) Who is not a biased source on this subject? If this was done by an organization with no investment in LGBT politics, does it then become legitimate on your eyes? This is the same tired bullshit argument that every marginalized group has had to go through when doing research within their own communities.

    2) The survey does ask about the relationship with the perpetrator.

    3) Self-reporting is a limited, but valid tool used across research. The project also incorporates interviews with both community members and service providers as well as a literature review. Seeing as how there is little to no “objective” information that can be gathered about this topic as sexuality/gender expression are not commonly gathered in reports on violence, it is ridiculous to think self-reporting on part of this research project makes it illegitimate.

    4) Considering that this one of multiple questions asked to gauge this situation, what could possibly be wrong about asking people to identity to their own feelings of safety in the streets? Whether or not someone might have been actually hurt, there is a culture of safety/violence through which people live their lives and can speak to.

    5) This was not the purpose of the project. If you think that “legitimate” calculations of violence are what should be gathered (even in the wake of multiple studies showing how people do not trust/report many crimes to the police), there is more than enough information out there about the scale of violence throughout SF to which you can compare this information.

  46. The survey that you cited is riddled with flaws:

    1) It was conducted by a biased and self-serving source

    2) It makes no distinction between domestic violence situations and random violence situations

    3) It relies on self-reported data rather than data that can be objectively verified

    4) It relies in part on “perceptions” of safety and “feelings” which are notoriously unreliable.

    5) It does not compare the alleged rate of violence to a control rate i.e. the rate at which anyone might be exposed to a violent incident

    None of which is to say that there may not be a problem. Only that the survey doesn’t make the case because of its inherent biases and flaws.

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