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What's Behind The Killings Of Several Black Trans Women In Dallas?

Jun 14, 2019
Originally published on June 14, 2019 7:40 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To Dallas now where two black transgender women have been murdered in the last month. Muhlaysia Booker, a 23-year-old trans woman, was found dead in mid-May. Then just two weeks later and less than a mile away, Chynal Lindsey's body was found. Altogether, at least eight black trans women have been killed in the U.S. this year. Most of their murders remain unsolved. Carmarion Anderson is executive director of the Dallas-based nonprofit Black Transwomen Inc. She met Muhlaysia Booker shortly before her death and remembers her warmly.

CARMARION ANDERSON: Beautiful, big brown eyes, a wonderful smile that would just warm your heart, lashes for days. And I just thought she was just a wonderful, sweet soul when I met her, just a young lady. And I really had empathy being a parent of someone who's just one years older than her. It really just touched my heart, and I was just very grateful just to be in her presence and just felt very empowered.

KELLY: Oh, I am so sorry for your loss and for the whole community...

ANDERSON: Thank you.

KELLY: ...Now that she has died. There is - there has been an arrest - a man arrested and charged this month with the murder of Muhlaysia Booker. We'll, of course, wait to see how that plays out in court. But it does prompt me to ask, what have interactions between the trans community there in Dallas and the Dallas Police been like?

ANDERSON: Well, you know, like any environment where there is a marginalized and disproportioned community having to rely on, you know, public service and government officials, the relationship was a little bit uncomfortable just because of how we are segregated and discriminated. It's really kind of hard to know where trust is.

We are fortunate in Dallas to have a Dallas PD who is assigned to - as our LGBTQIA liaison. And she's part of our community, so she has a greater love of empathy. And I really think that in some essence, it does allow us to know that we can go to them and trust them despite the tragedy, the things that we were going through while we're going through the process of our grieving.

KELLY: The case of Muhlaysia Booker in particular has drawn national attention, all kinds of headlines. Does that help address some of what you're talking about? I mean, of course no one would have wished this or any of these other crimes to have happened. But does people paying attention and listening to voices like yours - does it help?

ANDERSON: I really think it does. I think that any time the trans community have an opportunity to be visible, that's an opportunity to educate. There was a huge exposure to Muhlaysia Booker's death and the wonderful opportunity of giving her a funeral that was just absolutely everything and a true example - how to bury someone in an inclusive state of who they are.

KELLY: How so? I mean, tell me about the funeral.

ANDERSON: You know, they really made it a comfortable and brave environment where we were able to bounce between both genders because there is going to be individuals that knew me prior to my transition and people that knew me in my transition. But how do we come together to respect and mourn together? She left a template. So when I die as a trans person, that is what a trans-inclusive funeral should look like.

KELLY: How are people feeling today? I mean, as we mentioned, there are other murders of trans women that have not been solved. May make it personal - how are you feeling about your community and how things are going?

ANDERSON: I'm numb because I know that we have someone in custody. But at the same time, what did we learn from this? We could still use this opportunity to inform and demand what we are lacking because if we do not, then we are going to experience this again. And all it's doing is adding to the trauma within my community.

KELLY: Do you feel safe?

ANDERSON: I've been doing this work well over 15 years, and this is the - probably the first time that I've ever had such high anxiety because it happened right in my backyard. It continues to happen to my black trans sisters. That means I'm not exempt. I'm now just fearful. And I'm not sure if locking up someone who potentially murdered Muhlaysia Booker is going to bring any comfort to that. I think that's going to come with time.

KELLY: Carmarion Anderson, thank you.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

KELLY: She is the executive director of Black Transwomen Inc. That is a nonprofit based in Dallas, where two black transgender women have been murdered in the last month. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.