Another QTPOC Murder Underscores Epidemic of Violence

I saw a tweet when I slipped into my car after some grocery shopping. It was impossible, I thought to myself, that another transgender sibling was dead. Not again. I just wrote about two trans sisters who had been murdered as well as the murder of a lesbian and the death of a 51 year old queer woman to cancer. In ONE WEEK. I just had a conversation with Pgh community leaders about a gay man of color who has been missing since October. YESTERDAY. I just posted on Facebook about the so-called “findings” in the death of 16 year-old Teaira Whitehead an HOUR earlier.

I know these things do not all fit together neatly in one column. I know that there is a massive collision of intersectional issues in these stories. Stories and lives filled with second and third and fourth class status. I know that a white woman who dies in the arms of her loved ones is different than a 20 year-old-woman of color stabbed in the street by her female lover. I know that these are different traumas and losses and epidemics – from cancer to domestic violence to hate and more. But it all makes me ache and feel like a big collage of pain and hurt and anger are raining around me.  And there is little that I can do.

I drove home, assuming I would read and report on the story after I put away the groceries and had a chance to absorb the information. That wasn’t so easy.

Conflicting reports on the identity of an Indianapolis native who was murdered in Kentucky on January 9 are a source of concern, but everyone seems to agree that the gender variant person known as Edwards should be included among the increasing number of those being killed for their identity. From The Advocate:

Edwards, who was originally from Indianapolis, died shortly before 11 a.m. January 9, after being found by police in the parking lot of the Fern Valley Hotel with one gunshot wound to the chest, reports Louisville TV station WAVE. The victim was declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.

Initial investigations could not determine whether Edwards was a hotel guest or whether the shooting occurred inside the building. Investigators did, however, tell WAVE reporters that the murder’s timing was unusual.

Two days after Edwards’s death, Louisville Metro Police arrested 20-year-old Henry Richard Gleaves in connection with the crime and charged him with murder. At his January 13 arraignment, Gleaves pleaded not guilty, reports WAVE. He is currently being held on $500,000 bond.

Blogger Monica Roberts of Transgriot believes that Edwards identified as a transgender woman. The team at Elixher Magazine is exploring conflicting reports that Edwards identified as a gay man.  I will publish more details as they become available.

Edwards may be the third U.S. trans woman of color murdered in 2015, in what the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has called an “alarming, fatal epidemic of violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming women, specifically transgender women of color, in the United States.”

Either way, they would be the fourth Queer Trans Person of Color (QTPOC) to die a violent death in January 2015, along with Candra Keels, Lamia Beard and Ty Underwood.  We have epidemics within epidemics of our young queer people of color being slaughtered.  All four of them were under 30, three of them under 24.

Meanwhile here in Pittsburgh, 34 year old gay man of color Andre Gray is still missing – since late October – with no progress in his missing persons case.

Please note that due to the lack of clarity about Edward’s identity, I am adhering to the best practices suggested by the Associated Press and GLAAD by referring to Edward’s solely by their last name, no mention of the gender assigned at birth or the name assigned at birth.

KaeLynn at Autostraddle has a terrific piece up about Edwards and the larger picture as well as a different slant on how people are responding to the lack of Edwards real first name (not assigned at birth name, real name.)

Anyone with information about Edwards’s death is asked to call Louisville’s anonymous tip line at (502) 574-LMPD.

If you need support, please reach out to the GLBT National Hotline (888-843-4564). LGBTQ youth can call the Trevor Project Hotline (866-488-7386) and transgender people can utilize the Transgender Helpline (855-345-8464) and Trans Life Line 18775658860.

In Pittsburgh, these resources and more are available. Please reach out.

This is a lot to process. I hope more information becomes available and that Edward’s family gets closure. I also hope we can speak their real name soon.

Rest in power, Edwards. Your life matters to all of us.

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