India Clarke. Amber Monroe. Penny Proud. These are just three of the trans women who have been murdered this year. Now there is one more name: Shade Schuler. Schuler is the thirteenth trans woman and the eleventh trans woman of color to be killed in the United States in 2015.
Schuler, 22, was found dead in Dallas on July 29 and wasn’t positively identified for two weeks. The investigation into her murder is being conducted by the Dallas Police Department. Confirmation that Schuler was trans came from Nell Gaither of the Trans Pride Initiative in Dallas.
Throughout the mainstream news coverage, Schuler has been frequently misgendered by reporters and the Dallas Police Department alike. This is par for the course, regrettably; trans women are rarely afforded their accurate pronouns, in death as in life. The misgendering of Schuler remains an act of violence against her personhood in addition to the fatal violence she suffered.
The details of the case remain slim, but the implications are clear: Trans women, and in particular trans women of color, are in danger. And society is failing them. With the visibility of trans celebrities like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Caitlyn Jenner, it is easy to make assumptions about the progress made in terms of acceptance – and steps have indeed been taken. But it should not take thirteen murders to tell us that things remain drastically wrong.
This community has a tremendous amount of work to do to protect our trans sisters, and this work starts long before the names of trans women become hashtags, long before we’re staring statistics like this in the face and recognizing every name as a full life taken. We need to actively make spaces for trans women within LGBT organizations, to support trans organizations and to stand by trans women during their lives, not just after their deaths.
The Dallas Police Department has minimal information about Schuler’s murder, and they currently have no suspects. It is imperative that we continue to call for fair and full investigation of each of these murders, but also that we take steps to make the world safer for trans women before disaster befalls them.