Nearly 150 people gathered at the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Southwest on Saturday for the sixth annual Capital TransPride.
Author Everett Maroon delivered the keynote address; while Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive executive director Cyndee Clay, Rainbow History Fund founder Mark Meinke and TransPride founder SaVanna Wanzer were honored for their work on behalf of trans Washingtonians. Transgender Health Empowerment, the Latino History Project, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and Equality Maryland were among the more than 20 organizations that co-sponsored the event.
“We reached a much larger audience than we did last year,” noted Capital TransPride Co-Chair Holly Goldmann, who is also a D.C. LGBT Community Center board member.
Former Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League member Terra Moore, Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence vice chair Hassan Naveed, Jason Terry of the D.C. Trans Coalition, trans activist Ruby Corado and Officer Juanita Foreman of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit discussed anti-trans violence in the District on a panel that former TransPride chair Danielle King moderated.
Corado, whose community center for LGBT Latinos in Columbia Heights is slated to open on June 6, said the situation for trans Washingtonians has improved over the last decade. Challenges, however, remain.
“These days we do have the ability that we can be ourselves and we can actually function during the day,” said Corado. “We come out in different neighborhoods in this city. There are people who are really willing to embrace us and have done so well. However, we still have other people that are not quite receptive of the idea of a trans person being themselves.”
MPD statistics show that there were 10 reported bias-related crimes based on gender identity and expression in the city in 2010, compared to five in 2009 and four in 2008.
A National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report indicates that 70 percent of anti-LGBT murder victims in 2010 were people of color—and 44 percent of them were trans women. The NCAVP study further noted that trans people and people of color are twice as likely to experience violence or discrimination than non-trans white people. The report also indicates that trans people of color are more than twice as likely to experience discrimination than whites.
Lashay Mclean’s murder last July in Northeast and the subsequent spate of anti-trans violence that included an off-duty District police officer allegedly shooting three trans women and two male friends while they sat in a car underscores the problem. Prosecutors charged Gary Niles Montgomery with second-degree murder while armed in connection with the stabbing death of Deoni Jones at a Northeast Metro bus stop on Feb. 2.
“It’s time we look at ourselves and come together,” said Corado in response to King’s question about what trans women of color can do to curb violence directed against them. “You really need to take an active role because until we become part of the solution, you can’t expect someone else to do it for us.”
Corado and several other panelists were quick to applaud GLLU and the MPD’s efforts over the last year to combat anti-trans violence in the city. Terry described D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray as the most trans-friendly administration the city has ever seen, but he stressed that City Hall has not done enough to ensure trans Washingtonians’ safety.
“We have to get serious in addressing biased policing in this city,” Terry said.
Terry also cited Police Chief Cathy Lanier’s comments during a WTOP interview in February that trans people need to do more to keep themselves safe as another example of what he described as blaming the victim. “It’s not your fault if you’re victimized,” he stressed. “It’s not your fault.”
Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes stressed at the end of the panel that the department remains committed to combating bias-related crimes in the city. She added the MPD has a system in place to respond to officers who do “not do what they’re supposed to do.”
“If there is an issue, do let us know,” said Groomes.
Police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump further defended the MPD’s approach.
“One of the District’s most attractive qualities is that it is open and welcoming to people of all nations, races, sexual orientation and gender identity. Intolerance and hate crimes have no place in our vibrant city,” she told the Blade. “With 100 officers and almost all detectives trained to work with the LGBT community to address crimes of all types, we have more resources dedicated than ever before. This in turn helps us to make arrests, as we did in the recent IHOP shooting, and prevent the next crime and victimization.”
Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, echoed Crump.
“While our city as a whole, still has much work to do on these issues, the Gray administration has made major strides to open the lines of communication with community partners and leverage resources to address some core issues facing the community,” he said, noting that the District’s community engagement remains far more advanced than in other cities around the country. “There’s always going to be more we can do to respond to trends, shift culture and change behavior. It is our commitment to keep our lines of communication open and work in partnership to make the District a safer place for all residents.”