January 23, 2015 at 7:07 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Trans woman of color murdered in Va.
Lamia Beard, gay news, Washington Blade

Lamia Beard was shot to death in Norfolk, Va., on Jan. 17. (Photo courtesy of Beard family)

A transgender woman of color was shot to death last weekend in Norfolk, Va.

The Norfolk Police Department said it received a 911 call shortly before 4 a.m. on Jan. 17 that said someone had been shot on East 25th Street in the city’s Park Place neighborhood.

Paramedics transported the victim — later identified as Lamia Beard — to a local hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. She succumbed to her injuries several hours later.

The Virginian-Pilot — which referred to Beard, 30, by her birth name and used male pronouns to describe her — reported trans sex workers are known to work in the area where the shooting took place. The newspaper also noted that Beard over the last decade had been convicted of two prostitution-related charges.

Officer Daniel Hudson of the Norfolk Police Department told the Washington Blade on Thursday that investigators “don’t have any additional information” about the circumstances that lead to Beard’s death.

“It’s still a preliminary investigation,” said Hudson.

Ted Heck of the Virginia Anti-Violence Project told the Blade that Beard’s sister told him that she was one of five siblings.

“They’re very upset by the whole thing of course,” said Heck.

Trudylynne O’Brien, a trans woman and LGBT rights advocate who lives in Norfolk, told the Blade on Friday that she did not personally know Beard. She nevertheless mourned her death.

“I do share the hurt her friends and family may be feeling,” said O’Brien. “We transgender women face never-ending discrimination based on fear. Unfortunately it is solely based on not understanding or being able to accept another’s persona.”

Advocates criticize local police, media coverage

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in a press release said Beard’s death is the first murder of trans person of color to which it has responded this year.

An NCAVP report indicates 72 percent of the 18 victims of anti-LGBT murders the organization reported in 2013 were people of color. It notes 72 percent of the aforementioned victims were trans — and 67 percent of them were trans women of color.

At least a dozen trans women of color were reported killed in the U.S. last year. These include Kandy Hall and Mia Henderson who were murdered last summer in Baltimore.

“Lamia’s death is a tremendous loss, and tragedy so early in the year is a painful reminder of the disproportionate violence that transgender women of color face,” said NCAVP Research and Education Coordinator Osman Ahmed in a statement.

Lourdes Ashley Hunter, co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective who lives in D.C., agreed.

“The tragedy of hearing about Goddess Lamia Beard’s untimely death is devastating for the entire trans community, but especially for the black trans community,” Hunter told the Blade. “Another one of our sisters lost to brutal violence. She was 30 years old.”

LGBT rights advocates criticized the Norfolk Police Department and local media outlets who identified Beard as a man.

“We at VAVP hope that throughout the investigative process, the media, police and the public at large will respect Lamia’s gender identification and maintain a level of decorum and understanding when interacting with those individuals who identify within transgender and queer communities,” said the Virginia Anti-Violence Project in a statement that specifically criticized the Virginian-Pilot over its coverage of Beard’s murder. “One of the first steps to ensuring that no further acts of violence are committed against individuals for perceived or stated sexual or gender identity begins with those who have access to wide audiences, public spaces and the ability to accurately educate the public at large about sensitive issues.”

Hunter blasted the Norfolk Police Department for highlighting Beard’s criminal record.

“This framing reinforces the narrative that trans lives don’t matter,” Hunter told the Blade.

Va. senators kill hate crimes reporting bill

Virginia’s hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws do not include gender identity and expression.

The Virginia Senate Courts of Justice Committee earlier this month killed state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington County)’s bill that would have required state police to collect and report data on anti-LGBT hate crimes.

“We have so much work to do on the trans rights issue,” Carl Johansen, president of Hampton Roads Business Outreach, told the Blade. “If Lamia and others had state and federal protections in the workplace and housing, etc., their lives would be so different and positive. Everyone deserves these basic rights.”

Beard’s funeral is scheduled to take place in Norfolk on Monday. An online fundraiser has been set up to help Beard’s family pay for burial expenses.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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