Dear Friends in Christ,
CeCe McDonald is on trial for second-degree murder.
On June 5, 2011, CeCe McDonald, 23, a transwoman of color and 4 of her trans and queer black friends, set out about midnight to walk to a Cub Foods store in south Minneapolis. Their path took them past the Schooner Tavern, where three white people were standing outside. The two females and a male began verbally harassing and intimidating the five young people, calling them “niggers,” “faggots,” and “chicks with dicks.” Words escalated into physical contact, others joined in, and a fight broke out, at the end of which 47-year-old Dean Schmitz, one of the three bullies, and CeCe lay in pools of their own blood. Schmitz was dead from a stab wound and CeCe is going to trial on Monday, April 30, for second-degree murder.
The trial is supposed to sort out what really happened in the murky circumstances of the melee.
What is undeniable is that this altercation, death, and resulting trial did not have to happen. The bullying and violence directed at CeCe and her friends is similar in a way to the circumstances that caused the murder of Trayvon Martin. If the instigators of the contact with CeCe and her friends had not made assumptions, had not treated them with suspicion, disrespect, and mockery, had not harassed them with verbal slurs that were racial, homophobic and transphobic, had not initiated physical contact from which a fight broke out, this needless death would not have occurred. Had these slurs, fed by alcohol, ignorance, prejudice and fear of difference, not been said, Dean Schmitz would have gone home that night, and CeCe and her friends would have shopped at Cub Foods.
Yet, it is exactly these kinds of intimidation, harassment, physical attacks and extreme violence, sometimes leading to death, that all too often are inflicted upon transpeople, especially transpeople of color.
The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey of 6456 transgender persons (381 of whom were Black), conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, reveals pervasive discrimination for all respondents. The combination of anti-transgender bias and socio-economic status, together with persistent, structural and individual racism is especially devastating for Black transgender people and other people of color.
According to the survey
• Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Black transgender people who had interacted with the police reported police harassment, 14% reported physical assault, and 6% reported sexual assault
• Thirty-five percent (35%) of Black transgender people had been arrested or held in a cell due to bias at some point in their lives.
• Half (51%) reported discomfort seeking police assistance.
• Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Black respondents who had been to jail or prison reported being physically assaulted and 32% reported being sexually assaulted while in custody.
LC/NA continues to advocate for all oppressed people, including those among us who are transgender, gender queer and gender non-conforming. We urge you to support all transpeople and people whose differences make them all too often the target of intimidation and violence.
CeCe is deserving of our support as the issues of guilt or innocence are sorted out during her trial. Pray that the court proceedings are thorough, free from bias, and conclusive – that justice is seen to be served.
Blessings and Peace,
Transgender Representative on the Board of Lutherans Concerned/North America