2018 has been a particularly deadly year for Florida’s transgender community. Five killings of trans women of color have been reported as of late September. The high number of deaths has unsettled activists, especially in the city of Jacksonville, where three of the five homicides took place.
The first reported death was Celine Walker, 36, who was found fatally shot in a Jacksonville hotel room Feb. 4. Local authorities, including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, which was investigating the crime, misgendered Walker.
“He was a he per legal documents ... a lot of people are upset that we haven’t identified her as a female when she wasn’t a female,” Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Chris Hancock told Mic at the time.
As a result, Walker’s friends were forced to advocate for their friend as they mourned her loss. Friend Naomi Michaels wrote in a Facebook post shortly after Walker’s death, “Celine was not a pageant girl. She didn’t even enjoy going to gay clubs or events. She lived a low-key life where she did whatever needed to be done in order for her to survive.” Michaels also urged the community to contact the local media “about the misgendering of Celine Walker, a trans woman who was only trying to live HER LIFE.”
Antonia English, 38, known to friends as Antash’a, died in a Jacksonville hospital June 1 after being fatally shot, making her death the second reported homicide of a trans woman in the state. English’s fiancé, Robert Johnson, spoke to Mic correspondent Serena Daniari in September about English’s death.
“I don’t have her,” Johnson said. “I don’t even care how people feel but you love who you love. So if someone takes that from you, it’s like taking a large piece of you. So now I have to manage without this person in my life.”
Johnson added, “The best that I can say is she meant two moons and three worlds to me. I mean it’s, it was one hell of a blow.”
Another trans woman of color was found dead in Jacksonville just weeks after English was killed. The victim, Cathalina Christina James, 24, was found fatally shot and pronounced dead in a Jacksonville hotel June 24. James’ death prompted some local advocates to express fear that trans woman in Jacksonville might be being specifically targeted.
“The transgender community in Jacksonville is frightened,” Gina Duncan, Equality Florida’s director of transgender equality and chair of TransAction Florida, said in a statement released shortly after James’ death. “They fear this could be a serial killer or orchestrated violence targeting the community. They do not feel protected on their own streets.”
Sasha Garden, 27, was killed in Orlando in late July. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which was investigating Garden’s death, misgendered her in an initial press release — although Orange Country Sheriff Jerry Demings later apologized, saying in a statement, “Once OCSO detectives identified the victim and public information officers were made aware by family and friends that the victim was transgender, they immediately transitioned to referring to the victim by the appropriate gender and recognized name, Sasha.”
Mulan Montrese Williams, a friend of Garden’s, described her as “a very outgoing person, very outspoken.”
“It’s sad we can’t live our life just like anyone else without looking over our shoulder to make sure no one is going to hurt us because of who we are,” Williams told local outlet WESH at the time. “This world can be very cruel, and it can be very cruel to us trans girls.”
Londonn Moore Kinard, 20, is another black trans woman who was found fatally shot Sept. 8 in North Port, Florida. Hal Trejo, with the Florida-based LGBTQ group All Rainbow and Allied Youth, told local outlets WBBH/WZVN at the time that Kinard’s death marked “the fifth [trans] person [killed] in Florida alone this year.”
“So we see it’s a huge crisis and needs to be addressed and talked about,” Trejo added.
The fact five black trans women have been killed in Florida in 2018 — three of them in the same city — has advocates and activists calling on local residents to do more to protect trans women. Johnson told Daniari he thinks the larger Jacksonville community should be better allies to their trans neighbors.
“At the end of the day, these people are someone’s child, someone’s cousin, someone’s uncle or aunt, you know?” Johnson said. “How would you like it if this happened to someone you’re related to? Whether [or not] you agree with how they live their life, right?”
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