Civil rights activists press for swift investigation into killing of transgender women in Baltimore

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Mia Henderson. - PHOTO: Courtesy

Baltimore City Police are investigating the killing of Mia Henderson, a transgender woman and sister of NBA player Reggie Bullock. The slaying is the latest in a string of Baltimore area homicides this year in which transgender women of color have been killed. 

"It is with a heavy heart that we share our condolences with the family and friends of Mia Henderson. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and the Baltimore LGBT community," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

She added, "We are shocked and appalled by the recent string of murders of transgender women in the Baltimore area — and justice still has not been served. These heinous crimes are intolerable and have no place in our society. While we have made significant advances in Maryland and elsewhere to secure basic rights for LGBT people, transgender women are still being systematically targeted, harassed, discriminated against, and in the most atrocious crimes, killed for simply being who they are."

The task force is working with the police department and its LGBT community liaison, as is the Human Rights Campaign.

"Even as the transgender community experiences historic visibility in the mainstream media and increasingly inclusive protections under the law, the reality is that for far too many transgender individuals — particularly poor and working class transgender women of color — violence and brutality are facts of their every day existence," said Fred Sainz of HRC.

Henderson, 26, was found dead in an alley last Wednesday in West Baltimore. She is the second transgender woman murdered in Baltimore in the past two months and the sixth transgender woman of color murdered this year.

Transgender women of color face disproportionate levels in violence in comparison to other members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

According to a report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 72 percent of LGBTQ homicide victims in 2013 were transgender women and 89 percent were people of color.

Discrimination in employment, health care and persistent racism can reinforce one another to place transgender people of color at greater risk for poverty and violence.

"The importance of the statewide nondiscrimination bill in Maryland cannot be overstated. We need to continue to move these protections at the state and federal level, but the truth is that while policy change is critical, it is insufficient in and of itself," said HRC vice president Jeff Krehely. "We need a concerted effort to raise awareness that transgender people are an important part of the community and to address the persistent issues of violence and poverty facing so many in the transgender community.”    

Krehely continued, "We call upon states and municipalities to raise the visibility of the transgender community and to help transgender workers through focused employment and other anti-poverty programs. Only then will we begin to curb this epidemic of violence facing transgender women." 

Anyone with information is asked to call 410-396-2100.