Today, I stand alongside community members at the Court of Appeals in Albany, New York to demand justice for Lateisha Green.
On November 14, 2008, in Syracuse, New York, Lateisha, a young transgender woman of color, was shot and killed while sitting outside of a house party with her brother. The assailant shot at her, hitting both Lateisha and her brother, while shouting anti-LGBT slurs. Lateisha's brother survived; she did not. Dwight DeLee was tried for the murder of Lateisha Green in 2009. The jury was convinced that DeLee targeted Lateisha because she was a transgender woman, and convicted him of manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime -- the second person in the entire country, and the first in New York State, to be convicted of a hate crime in the killing of a transgender person.
In 2010, a three judge panel overturned DeLee's conviction on a technicality, and he was released. Today, Lateisha's family members, friends and community will hear arguments from the prosecution and the defense that will decide whether thst ruling was a mistake, or whether Lateisha will be left like so many other victims of transphobic violence -- without justice.
Three days ago, a transgender woman in Brooklyn was walking down the street with a friend when she was suddenly and viciously attacked by four men who beat her with a 2x4 plank of wood. They yelled slurs at her while they did it. Two weeks before that, another gender non-conforming individual in the same neighborhood was assaulted and shot by three men, for looking like "a man wearing a dress." These people also yelled slurs during their attack. Not one week goes by that I don't hear from a transgender friend, usually transfeminine, about some incident of being stalked, groped, yelled at, threatened, chased or assaulted. Being a transgender man myself, it happens to me much more rarely -- but it still happens. No transgender person walks out of their house in the morning and feels really, completely safe. But when I hear about a man chasing my friend to her house, banging on the door and screaming slurs and threats at her while she hides inside, crying and scared, and does not call the police for help, I am not surprised.
Why call for help when help may not come? Why put ourselves through the pain of a protracted investigation and trial, if the justice system, our last respite and hope, can give up on justice for us so easily?
We are gathering in Albany today in support of Lateisha, a young woman who was taken from us too soon, and whom the justice system has utterly failed. This isn't about sending a man back to prison for a terrible crime. This is about sending a message that we will not stand by while the court, and the state, decide to value certain lives more than others.
Since the night that Lateisha was shot and killed, more than 90 people have been murdered in this country, simply for being transgender. Those people were overwhelmingly transgender women, and overwhelming transgender women of color. In so many of these cases, no one is ever brought to justice for the deaths of our sisters - even if, like Islan Nettles in New York City barely one year ago, they are attacked and beaten into a coma literally across the street from a police station.
We need to ask ourselves, why?
We live in a state which prides itself in its history of justice, equality, and liberty, but in which any transgender person can be legally discriminated against just trying to shop at a grocery store. We live in a country where a black person is a victim of vigilante violence every twenty-eight hours.
We will not stand for this state of affairs one minute more.
Lateisha was a proud, beautiful, black transgender woman. Her life mattered to her community and her family. Her life still matters -- to every one of us who is diminished in some way, small or large, by her absence. Her life still matters to every one of us who is inspired to stand up in her name and tell the world: Black Lives Matter. Transgender Lives Matter. And we will continue to demand justice for Lateisha, and for every beautiful, unique person who has and will be taken from us too soon by prejudice, hate and contempt. We matter.