It’s been 20 years since Matthew Shepherd, a young gay man, was brutally beaten and killed because of his sexuality. His remains were interred in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Oct. 26, an honor almost unimaginable a few short decades ago. This recognition is a clear indication of the ways in which this country has progressed quite substantially in the past few years in our increasing inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. However, there is still much more work to be done. There are still far too many cases of discrimination (and blatant murder) toward individuals in the transgender community, and primarily toward trans Black women.
I was recently having a conversation with Shijuade Kadree, the chief advocacy officer at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Manhattan. Since its founding in 1983, the center has focused not only on empowering people in the LGBT community to lead healthy, successful lives, but also on celebrating the diversity within the community and advocating for justice and opportunities for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual individuals. As I learned more about the advocacy work, mission and resources of the center, Kadree reminded me of the many bias incidents that have occurred toward trans Black women across the nation.
In 2017, there were at least two dozen murders of trans women in this country. Sadly, the number of murders does not seem to be waning. The Human Rights Campaign is currently documenting the dozens of murders that have occurred in the trans community throughout 2018. These often brutal murders have been carried out by romantic partners and, in many cases, total strangers who targeted individuals solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and identity. The stories sometimes made their way into the larger public discourse, but far too often, the lost lives were not elevated to the level of community or national outrage and action.
If we consider ourselves members of the larger community, we must continue to fight for justice and equality—for all. Just as the death of Matthew Shepherd should be honored and remembered, so too should the lives of Black trans women such as Diamond Stephens, Shantee Tucker, Celine Walker, Cathalina Christina James and Anthas’a English, to name just a small few. We must continue to raise up their names and remember their lives and their stories. Matthew Shepherd’s death served as a catalytic moment in LGBT organizing as well as larger community education, awareness and solidarity. It is my sincere hope that we can respect the lives lost in the Black trans communities and let their stories be a mobilizing force for us to become a more inclusive and just society.
To learn more about The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, go to www.gaycenter.org.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.