Weird contradiction, don’tcha think… Catching and punishing murderers and assailants generally means putting the evil bastards behind bars, hopefully for many years. Hate crimes laws tack additional years onto what should already be long sentences and in the case of murders put the death penalty on the table.
But then again I’ve never seen any charm or sanity come out of San Francisco. Even years ago I found the city to be an ugly brutal city that made life especially hard for trans-women. Great place to be a gay man, sucky place to be a woman who was unfortunate enough to have been born transsexual.
By Toshio Meronek
Wednesday, 25 February 2015
On Monday, February 2, Taja Gabrielle de Jesus was found stabbed to death in a stairwell in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco. She’s one of seven transgender women, most of whom were of color, reported to be murdered in the US since the beginning of 2015.
Danielle Castro is Taja’s adoptive sister. “Every time I think of her, I keep imagining her fighting for her life, and I just keep getting this graphic image of what she went through, Castro says. “And I don’t want to remember her that way.”
Typical responses in horrible situations like this one include angry demands for the killer to be locked up. More police. Stronger hate crimes laws.
But activists like Castro believe that these are most certainly not the way the community will find real safety, noting that trans people face high rates of abuse by police and correctional officers, and are often turned away by gendered social service operators such as battered women’s shelters and drug rehab centers.
Castro was one of the dozens of trans women of color who staged a die-in at the San Francisco City Hall on February 10, as several hundred allies gathered nearby. Another was Janetta Johnson of the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP). Her organization, operating on a shoestring budget of well under $100,000 per year as mainstream gay rights groups like the Human Rights Campaign monopolize funding for LGBTQ issues, is one of the few resources geared toward the thousands of currently and formerly incarcerated trans people around the country. “We’re kind of like a population of people who have been left behind,” she says.
Anger is part of what spurred 300 or so people to turn up at City Hall in the middle of a weekday to demand more attention around the extreme rates of violence against trans people, especially trans people of color (Murders of community members are so common that in several hundred cities around the world, Trans Day of Remembrance vigils are held to commemorate the many lives cut short each year). But the group calling itself Taja’s Coalition is fueling their rage into a call for a not-so-typical kind of justice: safe, affordable, accessible housing and reentry programs for trans people in San Francisco. “I’m not requesting anyone go fishing for us, but I’m asking people to teach us how to fish, you know what I’m saying?” Johnson says.
At the same time, Taja’s Coalition is also uniting against the local sheriff’s plans for a new jail. The group doesn’t believe that state “tough-on-crime” solutions are making trans people safer.