Since 2015, at least 85 trans women have been murdered across the country — most of them black trans women and gender non-conforming people. Savannah: It’s like, if I was searching for a place to move to like where do I go? Where would I be safe? Turns out a lot of these cases have something in common… [news clips: “She was a transgender woman police identified as a male when she was killed.” “In just the past 90 minutes, Jacksonville police have released that victim’s birth name.” “Who was identified initially as a man by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.” “JSO is referring to the victim as a black male in his 20s who appears to identify as a female Cheap London Escorts.” The way cops are investigating these crimes…could be delaying justice.
Transgender people are more likely to face violence and discrimination than the average U.S. resident. One of the reasons they’re often at risk is their IDs – a simple document that many might take for granted. When the gender marker on state-issued ID doesn’t match the outward appearance of a transgender person, it opens up a world of harassment, and sometimes violence. Savannah: When it comes to getting a job. You know this could be the best job ever. And then now all of a sudden they see my gender marker and now they’re treating me differently. They can be afraid to show their IDs while driving, at a bar, or to vote, for fear of someone finding out that they’re transgender. Savannah: The scary part is for me, being stopped by the police. You just never know who’s stopping you. You don’t know if these people are homophobic. You just don’t know. [Savannah at church: “Even in my unworthiness he calls me friend. Aren’t you glad this morning that God doesn’t look at your circumstance or look at your issues.” Singing: “You are everything to me.” According to a 2015 survey of transgender people, nearly a third of people with mismatched IDs reported being harassed, denied services or attacked.
They can also lose access to medical care, become homeless, or be forced into sex work. Savannah: A lot of times our trans women they’re resorting to things such as prostitution because society has made it so hard. Every girl may not be as feminine or look passable as we love to say in our community. What do you do when you’re hungry? What do you do when your rent is due and your lights are about to be cut off, but you can’t get work because you don’t fit into the norm. Because your friends? They’re in the same situation as you and your family wants nothing to do with you. So you walk the streets in unsafe environments just so that you can feed yourself.
The discrimination trans people face in life can continue after they die. In Jacksonville, during murder investigations, the police often identified victims by names they no longer used, instead of their preferred names. In the trans community — whether this happens in life or death — it’s called deadnaming. The police have also systematically denied the victim’s identities by incorrectly describing their gender. Savannah: If they were known as a woman and that’s who they lived their life as, they’re refusing to do that. In addition to the disrespect – deadnaming can slow down a murder investigation in its most critical hours. Savannah: You don’t get to choose what gender I am. Those people that knew me in the streets or wherever, they knew me as a woman. So you’re saying, oh a man. You’re misnaming me and giving my biological name, how do you expect to solve a case, if nobody knows that. What if I was murdered in a hotel and people saw a woman go in and then you’re saying a man, that’s not what they saw. That’s not that’s not who they are.
This is part of a national pattern. ProPublica contacted all law enforcement agencies in locations where trans people have been killed since 2015, and found that 87 percent of victims were deadnamed or misgendered by authorities. Many police departments cite an internal policy to go with the name and sex listed on a victim’s state ID. Savannah: I need my gender marker to reflect what it is. So that I can be respected. I feel like it’s a prison. It’s a prison and I have a release date. But I have no keys to get out of my cell. Savannah has recently started the process of legally changing the gender marker on her ID. But turns out, switching that tiny “M” or “F” can be incredibly hard. There are no federal policies to address gender marker changes on documents like driver’s licenses. So it’s left up to the states. Some are generally more trans-friendly than others. While others require a court order, an amended birth certificate, or proof of surgery. Trystlynn Barber: The laws are so convoluted across the United States, state to state.
And it does not make any sense. Supposed to be united right? Trystlynn Barber lives in Georgia and has been in the process of changing her ID. But it’s not been easy. Georgia law requires proof of gender reassignment surgery, which is a high barrier for most people. Trystlynn: The cost of gender reassignment surgery at the low end that I’ve seen in research in the United States is 15,000 dollars. The problem is getting health coverage to cover something like that. To be hit with a solid wall of not being able to move forward is heartbreaking. It can destroy people. But she later remembered a crucial detail. Trystlynn: I wasn’t born here. I was born in New York. The State of New York, with a less restrictive policy, required only a doctor’s note stating she was transitioning. They sent her a corrected birth certificate within a month – which she’s used to update most of her documents.
There it is. That’s a certified copy grey seal. With my name. My changed name and my correct sex. And I was half way back from the mailbox. When I open this up. I had other mail in my hands, everything else fell from my hands I fell to my knees. I started crying, in the middle of the grass right out here. I’m sorry. After thinking that I was not going to be able to ever get it done. Was the most amazing feeling. I’m sorry. As for Savannah…she’s working with a lawyer in Jacksonville to get her ID changed. Savannah: When that day comes for me when my gender marker is changed, it will be like the missing piece to my puzzle. It’s that important. She hopes it will keep her a little bit safer…but knows this problem is bigger than a letter on her ID. After we saw her, another trans woman was murdered in Florida, this time a few hours south of Jacksonville. The Sheriff’s Office described the victim as a man “wearing a wig” and “dressed as a female.” Another case of deadnaming and a murder that’s yet to be solved.