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The Fatal Shooting of Muhlaysia Booker Is Part of a Larger Trend of Violence Against Black Trans Women

Five black transgender women have been victims of fatal violence in the United States so far this year.
Muhlaysia Booker, a black transgender woman, was found dead on Sunday, May 19th, 2019.

An attack against Muhlaysia Booker last month gained national attention.

The Dallas Police Department announced on Sunday that it had found a body early Saturday morning while responding to reports of a shooting. The department later identified the victim as Muhlaysia Booker, age 23.

Booker is one of five transgender women who have been killed in 2019. All five victims were black women, the Human Rights Campaign reports.

Those victims include Michelle Simone, a 40-year-old black transgender woman, who was fatally shot on Sunday in Philadelphia. According to local media, the motive remains unknown, and no arrests have been made. Just last week, on May 14th, Claire Legato, a 21-year-old black transgender woman, died from injuries sustained after being shot in the head on April 15th, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Last month, an attack against Booker gained national attention. According to the New York Times, after Booker was involved in a minor traffic accident in a parking lot, a man—later identified as 29-year-old Edward Thomas—was offered $200 to attack Booker. The beating, which occurred in broad daylight and was filmed on a cell phone, shows Thomas putting on gloves before repeatedly punching Booker. Other men also began kicking her while a group of bystanders watched. The video also shows that at least one woman shouted a homophobic slur.

Booker was hospitalized for a concussion and a fractured wrist as a result of the attack. "This has been a rough week for myself, the transgender community, and also the city of Dallas. But I want to sincerely thank all you guys for coming out," Booker told CNN affiliate KTVT after the attack. "I will remain strong with your support."

Though the attack was investigated as a potential hate crime, Thomas was charged with aggravated assault, as gender identity is not included within Texas' hate crime statute, the Washington Post reports. Currently, there is no evidence linking the homicide to Thomas or last month's attack, according to the Times.

The news of Booker's death comes at a time when advocacy groups are reporting that the rate of violence against transgender people is rising. Since 2013, 128 trans people have been victims of fatal violence in the United States, and 80 percent of them were people of color, according to the Human Rights Campaign. In 2017, 29 transgender people were killed, the highest number to date.

While rates of violence against transgender people in the U.S. are generally high, black transgender women are particularly at risk: They have made up the majority of transgender deaths by fatal violence each year since 2015.

"[T]he intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia conspire to deprive [transgender people] of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities," which exacerbates existing vulnerabilities for transgender people, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

A joint report by regional LGBTQ advocacy organization Southerners on New Ground and the Transgender Law Center, published on May 14th, details the high levels of violence and harassment faced by trans people on a daily basis. According to the report, 47 percent of transgender people living in the 13 southern states surveyed reported "high levels of violence by strangers" during their daily lives. Nearly 60 percent of transgender women said that they had been harassed or abused by a stranger. Fifty-two percent of transgender people of color reported that they had faced harassment or abuse from police officers, and 40 percent reported that a medical provider had verbally or physically mistreated them due to their gender identity.

The LGBTQ community has experienced discrimination at the federal level as well. In 2017, President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military (the Supreme Court has allowed the ban to continue temporarily). And in 2018, the White House began to consider removing transgender and intersex individuals from definitions of gender, a change that would have detrimental implications for health-care access for transgender and non-binary individuals.