Another Trans Woman Murdered… Why Isn’t it Big News?

When Trayvon Martin was gunned down walking home from a convenience store, we all heard about it.  It was (and still is) huge news, earning huge media response and outrage.

On April 29th, Brandy Martell, an African American trans woman, was gunned down in Oakland while sitting in her car.  She wasn’t any more armed than Martin was but have you seen anything in the papers?  Anything on the ‘go to’ news outlets?  Me either.  As much as trans and gender non-conforming individuals have been making strides this year in terms of rights and more positive media exposure, perhaps the unprovoked death of a trans person is just not as compelling as that of a teenage boy. (note: I’m not saying either death is more important than the other, this is a statement about media attention).

Holly Fogleboch, whom I met at Butch Voices Oakland last year, is trying to change that by getting the word out.  She been contacted by 3 news reporters so far today to talk about the murder and what is (and is not) happening as a result.  Why Fogleboch?  Because she emailed the SFWeekly, inspiring them to write this short piece.  She’s hoping to step back in favor of Brandy’s family and friends as soon as they are willing and able.

Some bloggers and online media outlets have picked up the story, and the outrage.

From DailyKos, posted 4/30:

37-year-old Brandy Martell was sitting behind the wheel of her car around 5:15 a.m. at when one or two men walked up and began a conversation. A witness told ABC7 the conversation was cordial, but then.. one of the men became angry and fired into the car right where Martell was sitting.

“When you don’t provide a space in society for people who you think are the other or different, especially transgender women, especially transgender women of color, when you don’t provide spaces for them to be in a safe environment or a safe space, whether it’s socializing or services, this is what happens,” Martell’s friend Tiffany Woods told ABC7.

The DailyKos article refers to an post on ABC, at that time the only major media outlet to acknowledge the murder.

Blogger Monica Roberts, of TransGriot posted today:

Another day, another Black transwoman killed somewhere. and as a Daily Kos postnoted, nobody gave a damn.   Correction, nobady gave a damn except her friends, family and other Black transwomen and our allies around the country who are saying to themselves there but for the grace of God go I.

Holly contacted me (as well as others) to help get the word out.  Please do what you can and feel comfortable with to help get some media attention to this case.  Here’s an excerpt from what Fogleboch posted to her Facebook page:

Dear ones-

I was at the Kentucky Fried Woman burlesque show last night in Oakland and at the end of the night Krista the MC announced that there was a vigil going on a few blocks away for a transwoman who had been killed on Saturday night.  I went over to the vigil and found a blocked off street, candles & balloons, and pictures of the woman who had been killed.  Her name was Brandy Martell.  Her family members were there and speaking to the gathering, tearful and raw.  Other people who had witnessed the murder were telling their stories too.  The crowd was made up of a wide assortment of friends, family, Occupiers and others drawn to the candles. As you’d expect this was not an organized moment, just raw raw grief at this senseless loss.

The Facebook note is public, so you should be able to read the whole thing if you have a FB account.

And finally a blog post by feral-femme, “100% indulgent self documentation, unashamed brown queer femme trans rage, and perseverance toward decolonizing body & heart & soul & fucking & land.”

I mostly do not know what to write about Brandi’s murder other than that I am deeply disturbed by the lack of reaction and passivity of many of the people around me. Obviously the mainstream news is not going to report on this without a fucking uproar. Obviously the paramedics did not arrive on the scene until she had been dead for twenty minutes in the lap of an #OO medic. Obviously the institutions that consistently support and uplift the lifes of straight, cis, and white people would be silent on her death. But I am generally appalled by the lack of response and apparent lack of mourning on the behalf of so many people in my life. I am the only trans person who lives in my house, and I feel lucky that last night enough friends were over/staying with us that I was able to sit on my front porch with three other lovely trans folk and cry, and talk clearly and plainly about how much we hate cis people, how we are afraid of being able to survive, how there are no safe spaces for us — not even in our own bodies. I am becoming disallusioned with spending time with any cis people at all, because even when I think that they might “get” me, there are times when the only way I can feel any shreds of safety is to be only with other trans folks, preferably trans folks of color. I wish I had been at her memorial last night, but my friend’s check-in about their time at the memoria/vigil makes it sound like it was dominated by screaming white cis bros (gay and straight) who didn’t know Brandi at all.

I hope in the coming days, we’ll see more media and blog attention.  Brandy’s friends and family are understandably still in raw shock, but I’m hoping we’ll hear from them as well, so we can hear first hand what they need in terms of support from the larger community.


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