Baltimore is Burning - But Who For?

By Emma Husband, Staff Writer

Held in a male cell and forced to remove her bra.

This was the fate of a transgender woman who was arrested in the Baltimore protests this week.

According to her lawyer, Astrid Munn, the woman was put into a male holding cell when officials found that she was assigned male on her birth certificate, despite living as a woman since she was 14. 

The death of Freddie Gray in custody earlier this month was the catalyst for the unrest in Baltimore. Another black man killed at the hands of the police. The community reeled in anguish; how many more black men must die in this way before systematic injustices in the police force and beyond are confronted? With echoes of Ferguson last year, the protests began.

Rewind to July 2014 and the body of Mia Henderson, the transgender sister of NBA star Reggie Bullock, was found in an alley in Baltimore. Just a month earlier in the same city and a transgender woman named Kandy was found dead in a field.

Since then, many more trans women have been killed, in Baltimore and elsewhere, with trans women of colour the most likely to be killed or the victims of violence. According to the 2013 National Report on hate violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected communities:

• 72 percent of homicide victims were transgender women

• Over two-thirds of homicide victims were transgender women of colour

• Transgender survivors and victims only represent 13% of total reports to NCAVP

The average life expectancy of a transgender person is 24 years old. When their deaths are reported in the media, they are often misgendered and misidentified, as in the case of Mya, a black trans woman shot dead by the police in Baltimore not long before Freddie Gray died.

A lot of black trans women are left feeling that their lives are not included in the #BlackLivesMatter campaign against the police brutality and anti-black violence that oozes through America's core.  Despite the hashtag's queer origins, many trans women believe the deaths and lives of their communities are not the ones that matter. As Baltimore blazes, it is important to be mindful of the black lives, in all their diversity, that have been lost and injured.