Call for New York City and State Government to Ensure Safety, Wellbeing of Transgender People – View Slideshow
( NY July 27) Community leaders from throughout the New York boroughs spoke out Sunday, July 26 in Jackson Heights New York against the recent attacks on two transgender women. Organizers Melissa Sklarz and Brendan Fay said the rally attended by 200 was in response to the attacks on two transgender women that live in Queens. On June 19, Leslie Mora was beaten with belt buckles leaving gashes in her scalp and legs. Carmella Etienne, was attacked on July 8th in St. Albans with rocks and bottles while her assailants threatened to slash her throat. Representatives from community organizations and elected officials from Queens provided remarks and a moment of silence was held in memory of transgender people who have died from violence as the result of anti-transgender bias. Journals were passed among the crowd for people to write messages of support and encouragement for Leslie and Carmella as they recover.
On June 19, 2009, at 2:30 am, during the height of LGBT Pride month, Leslie Mora was walking home from a nightclub on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens when she was accosted by two men who brutally beat her with a belt. They stopped when a passing motorist threatened to call the police. Throughout the attack, Mora’s assailants called her a “faggot” in Spanish. The attack left Mora with multiple injuries, including bruises all over her body, and stitches in her scalp. Police called to the scene found Mora nearly naked and bleeding on the sidewalk. They also recovered a belt buckle from the assailants that was covered in blood. Mora’s assailants, Trinidad Tapia, 19, and Gilberto Ortiz, 32, fled the scene but were arrested by police soon after the attack. Both were charged with assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon, a felony, and released on their own recognizance.
“It is important that the people of Queens know that transgender women and men are everywhere and that we will gather to tell all, that we will not allow our friends to be victims of random violence. Being transgender is difficult and hard for others to understand. We ask that our friends and neighbors show compassion and attempt to learn why people demand civil rights based on who they are and as NYC law provides,” stated Melissa Sklarz, a transgender community leader and a rally organizer.
Upon learning about the violent attack against Leslie Mora at an LGBT Pride celebration in Queens Borough Hall Brendan Fay, civil rights activist and an organizer of the rally, described feeling shocked. We had to do something. We can’t be silent when our transgender sisters are being beaten up on our streets. “Transgender people are in every community including Jackson Heights, which has a reputation of being a welcoming, inclusive and diverse place. They deserve equal rights and respect and it is unconscionable that transgender New Yorkers are being attacked on the streets where they live”, while our state’s Senators shirk their responsibility to take action to end the violence. “In speaking out, Leslie and Carmella are two incredibly brave transgender women who are not just victims, but survivors.,” said Fay.
Joann Princivalli transgender district leader from Westchester called for passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) in the state legislature. GENDA (S 2406), which has passed the State Assembly and is awaiting Senate action, would make it a hate crime for an individual to attack another because of the victim’s gender identity or expression. Current state law already protects New Yorkers from hate-motivated violence based upon race, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation and other factors.
Organizers (Fay and Sklarz) also called on Mayor Bloomberg, Speaker Quinn and other city and state leaders to speak up and to implement improved services for transgender victims of hate crimes, effective police training, and tolerance programs for schools and communities.
While New York City hate crimes law include gender identity and gender expression, transgender people continue to be at risk for violence and discrimination due to anti-transgender bias. Violence against transgender people is a common occurrence according to the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs — nearly 300 transgender people in 2008 filed reports of violence against them motivated by anti-transgender bias. On average, a transgender person is murdered every month in the U.S.
On July 17, Onondaga County Court found Dwight Delee guilty for the death of a transgender person. Delee shot and killed Lateisha Green, a 22-year-old transgender woman living in Syracuse. The jury found Delee guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime. The hate crimes prosecution was the first of its kind in New York State involving the killing of a transgender person. It is also the second conviction involving the death of a transgender person in the United States, after Angie Zapata who was murdered in Greeley, Colorado.
Myrka Fiallas, a transgender youth leader with Make the Road New York, a group that organizes Latino immigrants in Queens said “Its not possible that today in New York in 2009, we are still seeing these kinds of incidents. As LGBT people, we are part of this community. Today it is us, tomorrow it could be your son, daughter ,your brother or sister Tell me, would you like to be in our shoes?”
Other rally speakers included NYC Council member Eric Gioia, NYS Assembly member Micah Kellner, District Leaders Danniel Dromm and Deirdre Feerick, and community leaders Jennifer Ramirez, of the NYC Anti Violence Project organizer, Rainbow Heights outreach leader June Brown, Program Coordinator, Queen’s Pride House Program Coordinator Sassafras Lowrey and Matt Bryantn Director, The Sylvia Rivera Food Pantry. Representatives of Speaker Christine Quinn and State Senator Tom Duane also attended.