On PBS Newshour, Anti-Violence Project's Beverly Tillery highlights the epidemic of deadly violence against trans women of color

TV news has historically spent little time covering anti-trans violence

From the May 24 edition of PBS Newshour:

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JUDY WOODRUFF (HOST): There is growing concern in this country and fear about deadly attacks against transgender Americans, particularly trans women of color. As Amna Nawaz tells us, a series of murders in different cities in just one week has underscored a larger pattern of violence over several years. And yet, it comes at a time when trans celebrities are more accepted and more prominent in pop culture.

AMNA NAWAZ (CORRESPONDENT): Judy, the most recent killing took place last Sunday in North Philadelphia. Michelle “Tamika” Washington, 40 years old and a longtime advocate for the LGBTQ community, was shot several times. Her death came one day after Muhlaysia Booker was found dead in Dallas. Booker was just 23, and just weeks before her death, she was attacked in a mob-like beating after a minor traffic accident. One week before those murders, 21-year-old Claire Legato was shot in the head in Cleveland. She was killed after an argument between her mother and the suspected shooter.

Earlier this year, two more black transgender women, Ashanti Carmon and Dana Martin, were also killed. Last year, more than two dozen transgender people were killed. And according to a 2018 Human Rights Campaign report, there were at least 128 trans people killed in 32 states since 2013; 80 percent of them were people of color. Let's now take a closer look with Beverly Tillery. She is executive director of the Anti-Violence Project, an LGBTQ anti-violence organization. Beverly, welcome to the Newshour. Thank you for being with us. I want to start by asking you about these recent spate of killings. They happened across the country. The circumstances are all very different in each case. Do you know or believe that these women were targeted because they were transgender?

BEVERLY TILLERY (EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ANTI-VIOLENCE PROJECT): You know, I don't know all of the specifics of each of these murders, but what we know is, as you really just showed already, that we are seeing a tremendous number of homicides of trans women of color. Over and over for the past several years this has been consistent, and we need to pay attention as a society. This is something that's happening to our community members who are constantly under threat, experiencing other kinds of hate violence in our society, and we need to step up and come together and really do something to stop it.


NAWAZ: Beverly, it's worth noting we’re speaking on the same day the Trump administration has rolled back some healthcare protections for trans people. Earlier this week, there was another rule they put into place allowing shelters receiving federal funds to turn away trans people seeking services there. There's also the efforts to push a transgender military ban here. What effect have all of these, even just proposals, had on the trans community?

TILLERY: Yeah. I mean, talk about a complete slap in the face. You know, the timing is really important to note here because, on the heels of these homicides where the community is already reeling, for the administration to one after the other release these proposed guidelines and rules this week, it's clear that they do not care about trans and gender nonconforming community. And in fact, in the work that we’ve been doing in the city of New York and across the country, when we've brought together trans and gender nonconforming folks to talk about what are ways that we need our cities and our states and the nation to respond to this violence and to help prevent violence, people over and over again have told us we need housing. We need access to employment. We need better health care so that we can put ourselves in safer circumstances and so we're not as vulnerable to violence that's happening in our community. And what does the administration do? Seek to strip away access to healthcare, to housing, to employment. You know, all of the things that people have actually articulated that they need to address the violence, the administration is trying to take away.


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