Very recently, a video has materialized which shows two Kansas City police officers brutalizing a transgender woman as they arrested her. According to an article in The Guardian, the assault was captured on video on May 24th of 2019, a full year ago. In it, the officers are seen kneeing the woman in the face, ribs and torso and forcing her arms over her head while she is handcuffed. The arrest occurred after an incident in a beauty supply store, where both the woman and the owner of the store called police. It is important to know that the woman is Black and the officers are not. The officers have maintained that they did not use excessive force, and according to The Guardian, they have been placed on “administrative assignment” until there is a verdict on this incident. The woman the police are shown abusing went by the names Brianna, Bebe, and Briya. Her last name was Hill. She was murdered in Kansas City in October, and there is an individual in custody for her death.
Brianna Hill’s story is heartbreaking. It highlights what so many outside the LGBTQIA community don’t want to acknowledge: the violence so many trans people, particularly Black and Brown transwomen face from both the state and from inside our communities. There is an EPIDEMIC of Black transwomen being killed in this country. Brianna Hill was confirmed to be the twentieth trans person to be murdered in the US last year. All but one of the known victims were women of color. It is important to know that the levels of discrimination against trans and gender nonconforming people are alarming. According to analysis conducted by the National LGBTQ Task Force with the National Black Justice Coalition and the National Center for Transgender Equality, “Black transgender and gender nonconforming people face some of the highest levels of discrimination of all transgender people” (the report, “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey” is available here: https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/resources/NTDS_Report.pdf). The rates of homelessness (more than 5 times the rate of general US population), unemployment (4 times the rate of the general population) and assault and harassment by law enforcement (38 and 15 percent, respectively). Trans and gender nonconforming people are being especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is simply not acceptable.
It’s time for all of us who care for our communities to actively see what is happening to our trans and gender nonconforming family. Trans visibility is important, working to codify protections for trans and gender nonconforming people into law is essential. Any day now, the United States Supreme Court will pass a ruling on the case of Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who lost her job because she was trans. Her health declined as a direct result of the loss of her job and health care coverage, and she passed away in early May of 2020. It is the hope and desire of this campaign that the justice and safety Mx. Stephens sought during her life become a reality with the Supreme Court ruling.
The Hawkins/Walker 2020 Campaign stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA community, and takes its lead from those in that community. We want the immediate passage of the Equality Act, which has passed the House and is now stalled in the Senate. This Act would provide essential protections from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, education, and public spaces and places, federally funded programs and jury service. It explicitly includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics (see: https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-equality-act).
The epidemic of violence against transgender people must be confronted and ended, and those who commit assault and murder of transgender people must be prosecuted and charged with hate crimes. It’s up to all of us to do the necessary work to make our various communities safe spaces for trans and gender nonconforming people.
Rest in love and power, Brianna Hill.