The shooting deaths of three transgender women in just five days’ time this month brought hundreds of trans activists, anti-gun advocates, and allies to Washington Square Park on the Friday evening of Memorial Day Weekend in a Keep Your Hands Off Our Trans Bodies rally called by the New York Transgender Advocacy Group (NYTAG).
The gathering — which was co-supported by several dozen other groups including Black Lives Matter, Black Trans Media, the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, DecrimNY, Equality New York, Gays Against Guns, Harlem Pride, Housing Works, New Alternatives for Homeless LGBT Youth, Queerocracy, the Reclaim Pride Coalition, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, the Translatinx Network, and VOCAL-NY — at moments reflected the frustrated anger over an epidemic of violence against transgender women, especially women of color, sweeping the nation.
Olympia Perez, the content director of Black Trans Media, castigated groups outside the black transgender women’s community that show up at rallies but do nothing of substance to help.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 26 transgender people died in violent attacks last year, with at least five more fatalities in 2019.
On May 19, Michelle “Tamika” Washington, a 40-year-old black transgender woman was fatally shot in North Philadelphia’s Franklinville section, according to the Philadelphia Gay News.
The day before, Muhlaysia Booker, a 23-year-old black trans woman, was shot to death near a golf course in Dallas, just one month after she was brutally attacked on a street there.
On May 14, a 21-year-old black transgender woman, Claire Legato, succumbed to head injuries she suffered when she was shot on April 15 in Cleveland.
The violence against transgender people comes at a time when the Trump administration is advancing anti-trans policies from the military to public schools, health care, and homeless shelters.
Carmen Neely, who heads up Harlem Pride, told the crowd, “Stigma is weaponizing murderers.”
Christina Herrera, the founder of the Trans-Latinx Network, told the crowd, “Here as sisters and brothers, we are hurting.”
Toward the end of the rally, NYTAG co-founder Kiara St. James called on all transgender women in the crowd to come to the front for a moving moment of hugs.
In a written statement posted on Facebook, NYTAG said, “We ask not just for justice for these three women, but also call on the institutions that are designed to protect everyone, and ask them to uphold the laws and protections for the Trans community.”