Applewhite: Killing of transgendered woman part of a trend
New Yorkers from across the city, of all backgrounds and genders, came to Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem last Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil for Islan Nettles. The 21-year-old transgendered woman was killed on 148th Street and Eighth Avenue, a block from where I live.
A 20-year old man, Paris Wilson, reportedly made a pass at Nettles before realizing she was transgendered. Wilson allegedly became embarrassed and enraged, and began attacking her savagely. He later turned himself in and was charged with third degree misdemeanor assault.
In 2012, 53 percent of LGBT bias-crime homicide victims were transgendered women like Nettles, according to the National Coalition for Anti-Violence Programs. While there has been a decrease in hate crimes nationally, New York City has seen an increase in the past three years, especially among LGBT people of color.
This is troubling in a city as rich in diversity as New York. We assume that because this is New York, everyone is accepting. It's just a big ol' melting pot of diversity. But based on these statistics, hate crimes and bias can happen in diverse neighborhoods from Chelsea to Bushwick to Harlem, all of which have experienced anti-LGBT homicides within the past five years.
It was a great to see so many come to the vigil to support Nettles' family and speak out against this violence against transgendered people. Many of the Democratic mayoral candidates came to show their support. Laverne Cox, star of "Orange is the New Black," and a transgendered woman herself, spoke against the disproportionate amount of violence the trans community faces.
While we've seen an increased presence of trans women and men in the media and in current events, there is too little discussion or recognition of the lives of transgendered people. New Yorkers -- whether heterosexual or from the LGBT community -- should stand up against violence, intimidation and intolerance for all groups.
We celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this week. The hatred and bigotry that killed this young woman reminds us that we must continue to fight for the civil rights of all.
Sheldon Applewhite is an assistant professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. He tweets as @DrSApplewhite.