Derricka Banner, a 26 year-old became the 20th transgender person to be killed in 2017 on Tuesday morning, according to Mic. She lived in Lenoir, North Carolina and was found dead in Charlotte. She was found dead by gunshot inside a car.
A Charlotte man, Montavious Sanchez Berry, was arrested and charged with her murder. Charlotte police are communicating with the FBI about the murder, but won’t comment yet on whether the shooting was a hate crime. The state’s hate crime statute doesn’t include gender identity, which means the federal government would have to bring charges. A police spokesman, who referred to her as “Derrick,” told press that at this point in the investigation, there hasn’t been any evidence to suggest she was killed because of gender identity.
Transgender people face similar if not higher rates of intimate partner violence compared to cisgender people who are sexual minorities, research shows. A 2014 research article found trans people experienced significantly higher rates of intimate partner violence and sexual assault compared to cisgender people in the LGBTQ community, particularly dating violence and sexual assault.
The reality is that trans women of color experience violence from men who think hurting trans women will somehow restore the masculinity they falsely believe has been threatened.
In July, the comedian Lil Duval, made a reprehensible comment about trans women on the radio program “The Breakfast Club,” after being asked whether he would date or have sex with a transgender woman. “We not having sex,” Duval said. “This might sound messed up, but I don’t care. She’s dying… You manipulated me to believe in this thing. If one did that to me, and they didn’t tell me, I’mma be so mad I’d probably going to want to kill them.”
Janet Mock, a transgender writer and activist, who had recently been on the program, wrote in Allure, “If you think trans women should disclose and ‘be honest,’ then why don’t you work on making the damn world safe for us to exist in the first place? The ‘I’d kill a woman if I found out’ rhetoric is precisely why so many women hold themselves so tight — the stigma and shame attached to our desires need to be abolished.”
As Amanda Kerri wrote for The Advocate, trans women are often victims of violence from men who know that the women they are dating are transgender.
“The violence often comes when the man is afraid what people think of him for being attracted to a trans person. What is it about our society that tells a person they are less of a man for their attractions, and why do we exact a toll on them for having them?” Kerri asked.
Questions about dating aren’t the only context in which people casually mention dead transgender women. On Monday, the president of the San Antonio-based Christian legal advocacy group The Justice Foundation, Allan Parker, spoke against trans-inclusive policies outside a San Antonio Independent School District building. Parker asked those listening to his speech to imagine Caitlyn Jenner’s dead body.
“Bruce Jenner, who calls himself Caitlyn Jenner, would be identified as a white male in the police report by his DNA. That’s what he is. He is not a woman. He’s a white male dressing as a woman and using a woman’s name,” Parker said.
Too often, transgender people are misgendered in police reports and news reports of their deaths, which is why it is hard to track how many trans people were killed each year. The Charlotte Observer called Derricka “Derrick” in its news report of the man charged with her murder. Our culture’s casual dismissal of trans women’s identity and of violence against trans women is responsible for making the world less safe for trans women.
Trans people of all incomes and occupations are targeted with violence and harassment from transphobic people, but trans people are in particular danger due to their economic insecurity as a group. They have higher rates of homelessness and work in the underground economy, which is likely tied to the housing and workplace discrimination they face. According to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey (USTS), nearly 23 percent of trans people have faced housing discrimination and 30 percent of trans people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. One in five respondents participated in some kind of underground economy for income and those who participated in sex work were more likely to have experienced violence.
Trans people often can’t go to police for safety either. More than half of respondents also said they experienced some form of police mistreatment, which included sexual assault and being forced by officers to engage in sexual acts to avoid arrest. When black trans women are targeted by police, coworkers, intimate partners, or others close in their circle, it’s clear that an entire culture is responsible for devaluing their lives.