Today, I learned of the March 2 murder by gunshot of 16 year old Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson, a gender-fluid teen living in an Iowa suburb. From The Advocate:
Police found Johnson after responding to calls from neighbors, who said that they heard “five to six” gunshots fired in the area, reports The Hawk Eye. Covered with a yellow tarp, Johnson’s body was not removed from the area until approximately 10 a.m. the next day. No weapon was found, and while the police originally indicated they were following several leads, three individuals were detained and then released after questioning. No official cause of death has been released, and the Burlington Police Department did not respond to queries by press time.
Police detectives “went door-to-door,” according to The Hawk Eye, interviewing potential witnesses, but were only informed that two vehicles were seen speeding away from the area after the gunshots rang out into the night. Both vehicles — a white SUV and a blue van — are believed to be involved in the alleged homicide. But the police have not publicly announced a motive for the crime.
Please note that the family uses male pronouns to reference their loved one, pronouns that they did not reject. But I am using ‘they’ to affirm their whole identity. Sadly, while the family has used appropriate gender references, the media has not – are we shocked that the media which cannot seem to grasp transgender identities would be even more awful when trying to accurately and fairly report on gender-fluid identity?
In fact, the community has rallied around the family and raised awareness of much Johnson was loved in their school. Hundreds of people turned out for memorial services and local street artists have tagged their name as a gesture of remembrance. Check out this article and this one to learn more about their interests, hobbies, friends and the memories shared by friends and schoolmates.
Police are not addressing the question of this being a hate crime, but Johnson’s mother has voiced concerns. To be precise, according to the Advocate, Johnson identified as gender-fluid and trans. Iowa State Senator Matt McCoy referenced Johnson’s murder as part of an attempt to amend state hate crimes law to include gender identity. Police were not pleased.
I’m not pleased that a 16-year-old is shot five times and we get caught up in the nuances of hate as a legal term rather than considering the bigger picture. Of course it is reasonable that a much beloved young adult who had family and friend support as they explored their identity might be targeted for being out and open about said identity.
But the world sees Kedarie/Kandicee as a teen black male. And that fits a narrative that everyone is more comfortable with, in my opinion. The mass violence against young black men isn’t about hate, we say. Right? We don’t want to imagine the in-between realities where their racial identity and gender identity contribute to the brutal loss of a 16-year-old kid.
I’m not saying this was a hate crime in the legal sense or motivated by their gender identity BUT I allow for that possibility until the case has been solved. What is that so wrong?
Rest in power Kedarie/Kandicee. Your journey through this world touched many lives and opened hearts to love and joy. May your death continue to have that legacy as your family and friends grieve and seek justice.
So we don’t forget those whom we’ve lost to these epidemics in 2016