Trans people, and particularly trans women of color, face disproportionate violence compared to other marginalized populations. In the record-breakingly deadly year of 2016, for example, at least 23 trans people were murdered. Not even a week into the new year and reports of yet another killing are coming in. Mesha Caldwell is now being considered the first trans person murdered in 2017.
Mississippi News Now provides additional details: "The Madison County Sheriff's Office received a call around 3:45 pm that a body was in the road on Heindl Road near Old Yazoo Road, just outside the Canton city limits ... Madison County Coroner Alex Breeland identified the body as 41-year-old Omario Caldwell, but family and friends say her name was Mesha. Caldwell, a transgender woman, was a well known hair and make up artist in the Canton community."
“I think people will miss her style, her personality. She won many hair battles, and she hosted competitions in Canton for the young people so she will be missed greatly,” said Mesha's friend, Keith Dupree.
Although the motivation of the killer is unknown, some believe the killing to be a hate crime.
As is too often the case in the murder of trans people, some reports of Mesha's death had incorrectly identified Mesha as a man. "Many trans people fear that in death their full identities will be erased, subtracted from, or diminished," said Alex Schmider, a senior strategist for transgender media at GLAAD. "We've seen this happen ... Disregarding a person’s gender identity and misgendering them in any context adds insult to injury, especially when there is loss of life, compounding the tragedy by invalidating the authentic identity of the person who died."
"This is the first homicide of a transgender person that NCAVP has responded to in 2017, during a time of heightened fear and increased violence against LGBTQ communities," added Emily Waters, senior manager of national research and policy at the organization. "As we continue to hear more reports of violence, we must remind ourselves that this violence is not normal and fight harder than ever to keep transgender people safe."
A candlelight vigil for Mesha will be held at Smith park in Jackson, Mississippi on Friday night at 6:30.
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