Three days after the murder of Deshawnda Sanchez in Los Angeles, a Georgia woman became the 13th trans woman of color known to be murdered in 2014. *I know this number is disputed so please feel free to leave a comment or email me with corrections.
Keymori Shatoya Johnson was 24 years old living in Albany, Georgia. From the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP):
According to local media reports, which have been consistently misgendering or misnaming Keymori, she was shot and killed on Saturday, December 6th. Police have arrested Kuyaunnis James, 25, who, according to media reports, has been charged with felony involuntary manslaughter, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, and solicitation of prostitution.
The Advocate follows up on the consequences of the ongoing misgendering and minimizing of Keymori’s identity as trans.
However, Johnsons’s mother, Carol Asberry, did open up to local news station WALB, saying that Johnson’s home shows evidence of multipe gunshots being fired into a door, TV, and walls. She stated that her child had been shot twice before running in an attempt to get away. She added that Johnson did have a gun, but it was unloaded at the time of her death.
Asberry also explained to reporters that her child is trans, but that she does not want that identity become a larger factor in discussing her murder. In the end, all she wants is justice for Johnson. “I just want some answers. I just want [the murderer] to be held accountable,” she told reporters.
Dougherty County District Attorney Gregory Edwards similiary told WALB that, “There is nothing about the lifestyle or gender of any person that are presented in a court of [law] that should be a factor. We can only strive as humans to do this as best we can.”
I don’t even know what that means. It is one thing for a grief-stricken parent to remain focused on her child’s uniqueness, but for the DA to state that factors such as gender or orientation (or “lifestyle”) aren’t relevant to court proceedings is simply ridiculous. That can’t be determined this early unless there’s some clear piece of evidence that hasn’t been shared with the public.
The fact that Keymori is a transwoman of color does matter. Whether is was a factor in her murder has to be determined by the investigation and the evidence, but her identity does matter. Her identity should be part of the discussion and the court proceedings. We don’t need to force her mother to have that conversation, but we should require that the District Attorney and the police assigned to the investigation are considering how her identity impacts the case.
Consider that a grand jury will be determining the charges against James, a young black male. James is charged with involuntary manslaughter (felony), possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and solicitation of prostitution. Involuntary manslaughter? That requires more explanation. News report (CN – misgendering in this link) indicates there was a “spray of gunfire” with Keymori’s mother showing reporters several gunshot holes in her apartment.
I was struck by the fact that Keymori was a hair stylist who worked from home, much like Andre Gray – a gay Pittsburgh man of color who has been missing since October.
The epidemic of fatal violence against trans woman of color continues to be a clarion call to the LGBTQ community that #blacklivesmatter. Not every woman lost in 2014 was black, but the intersection of trans identity and race is clear. And it is killing our sisters. We must as white queer people do better.
We simply must. How many trans women of color will be slaughtered in 2015 before we stop chit-chatting and start having uncomfortable conversations about racism and racialization in our LGBTQ communities?
Andre Gray is missing, potentially the third queer person of color in Pittsburgh to be lost to violence in little more than a year. What will it take for us – right here in Pittsburgh – to step forward and do the work? The deadline is – literally – now.
Rest in peace, rise in power Keymori.