WASHINGTON — Transgender women were at the forefront of the first LGBTQ+ Pride movement, also known as the Stonewall Uprising, more than 50 years ago.
As the District prepared for Capital Pride in 2021, two stories involving transgender identity and violence against that community dominated the headlines in the DMV.
One incident involved a Black transgender woman who was violently attacked and stabbed in the head in a possible hate crime, and the other case was about a Virginia teacher who is refusing to call students by their preferred pronouns.
Some community members said the two separate incidents are deeply linked in many ways.
“It’s not that far of a jump to say I don’t respect trans youth in schools to then say I don’t respect trans people in my community,” Mason Dunn, with the Fenway Institute, said.
Dunn and Hope Giselle, with Get Phluid and who is a transgender activist, said the issues involving trans identity and violence against the community are microcosms of much larger issues.
“I think they are deeply linked in systemic transphobia, systemic cissexism, systemic racism, and systemic sexism in our world as well as many other factors that are leading to bias and discrimination,” Dunn explained.
In one case, a Black transgender woman was attacked and stabbed inside of a D.C. laundromat as, she said, the suspects hurled anti-LGBTQ slurs.
“I got stabbed in my head, where I have 18 stitches right here, I mean staples. And I have like 40 stiches in my arm, in my right arm,” Nysia Armstead told WUSA9.
Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
“It’s something that we all – especially as Black and Brown trans women with a focus on Black trans women who live in Black neighborhoods know that it is a possibility. It could be you today, me tomorrow, and one of our good girlfriends the week after that,” Giselle explained.
The Human Rights Campaign reported at least 28 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed in America so far this year.
“It’s been named an epidemic last year. So, when we talk about an epidemic, that’s something that had to be monumental in order for it to be noticed in that fashion,” Giselle said.
In Loudoun County, a physical education teacher was just reinstated after a suspension for telling the school board he refused to call trans students by their preferred pronouns because of his religion.
“I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl because it's against my religion, it's lying to a child, it's abuse to a child,” Byron Tanner Cross said.
“This is a huge problem because we already know that 1 in 4 trans students have contemplated suicide,” Giselle said.
“That kind of interpersonal bias can lead to current as well as future poor health outcomes. It can lead to depression, lead to anxiety, lead to suicide ideation, or lead to suicide attempts,” Dunn said.
Giselle and Dunn said it is important for all people and allies to begin discussing issues of transgender identity and violence and continue the conversations beyond Pride Month.
Additionally, those wanting to support the transgender community are encouraged to volunteer time and donate money to trans-led initiatives.