Violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people has been on the rise for years. According to the Human Rights Campaign, this is the worst year they’ve seen since they started tracking in 2013, with Black trans women particularly at risk. Here in Philly, three Black trans women have been attacked in the last six months — two of them were murdered.
Michaela Winberg with WHYY’s Billy Penn explains their cases have called attention to the fact Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law does not include protections for LGBTQ people, and why advocates — including Kendall Stevens, a Black trans woman who survived a brutal attack this year — say that needs to change.
On the disproportionate number of Black trans woman attacked in Philly
Just this month, Mia Green was shot to death in West Philly. She was only 29. Earlier this summer, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was murdered. Her body was found on the banks of the school river back in June. And that’s just two people in a long list of Black trans woman who’ve been hurt or killed. There’s Michelle “Tamika” Washington, who was shot in North Philly in May 2019. There’s Shantee Tucker, who was killed in Hunting Park the year before that. There’s Alicia Simmons, who was killed in West Philly last November. And this isn’t even just an issue in Philadelphia. This is really a nationwide phenomenon. Just this year, in 2020, [at least 33] trans and gender non-conforming people have been murdered. Most of them have been Black or Latinx trans women.
On Democrats’ efforts to expand Pa.’s hate crimes law to protect LGBTQ people
State Sen. Larry Farnese introduced a hate crimes bill, which would make LGBTQ a protected class. So if that were passed, that would mean that anyone who hurt or killed an LGBTQ person specifically based on their sexuality or their gender identity, they could be prosecuted with a misdemeanor or felony hate crime charge … He [also] introduced an anti-discrimination bill which would ban discrimination in housing, education and employment in Pennsylvania based on someone’s status as an LGBTQ person. Well, two of the bills have stalled out in the Judiciary Committee. The other one is in the Labor and Industry Committee. Both of those committees are controlled by Republicans who have refused to move them forward.
On the renewed push to move the bills out of committee
Last week, there was a public hearing in West Chester that was called by the Republican State Sen. Tom Killion. That hearing specifically was on strengthening hate crime laws in Pennsylvania for intellectually and physically disabled people, and also the LGBTQ community. They looped in another bill to make them sort of tag-team … There is not a direct action that comes from these hearings. It’s really just sort of a discussion of legislation that’s sitting before the Senate. State Sen. David Argall is the chair of the group. He was leading all of this testimony and it was it was pretty powerful. There was Jason Landau Goodman, who’s the executive director of an LGBTQ group called the Pennsylvania Youth Congress. Kendall Stevens was there. She was actually the first Black trans woman to ever speak before this group in its history. And they both talked about how fearful they are really to live in Pennsylvania … and it made an impact. Argall said that Stevens’s testimony was the most powerful that he’s ever heard as chair of this committee. And he mentioned that if all of the legislators in the House and the Senate heard this, they would probably be moved to take action.