Ashton O’Hara, Black, Trans and Genderfluid, Has Been Murdered; I’m Running Out of Hope

Today Equality Michigan reported on the murder of Ashton O’Hara, a Black transgender and genderfluid person of color who was murdered in Detroit on July 14th. O’Hara’s murder makes him (he was using he/him pronouns at the time of his murder) the 14th confirmed murder of a trans person this year, and the 12th of a trans person of color. If we include Mya Hall, a black trans woman who was shot by NSA Security, each of those numbers goes up by one. We’re only eight months into the year and we’ve already seen more trans women murdered than all of last year.

Ashton O'Hara via Facebook

Ashton O’Hara via Facebook

Ashton was celebrating his genderfluidity from a young age, telling his mother “Mama, you are so pretty, I want to be just like you when I grow up,” when he was small. He loved children, dancing and performing at clubs. He was also passionate about doing hair and even taught himself how to braid extensions at the age of four. His mother, Rebecca, said that he was so talented he could “turn a frog into a princess.” She also added that she hopes speaking out about his life and death might help someone.

I know Ashton is with God, but every day is a challenge. I hope speaking about this might help save somebody – even just one person saved will be worth it. A lot of people find it hard to be themselves in this world, but Ashton was always uniquely him. It’s time for everyone to be respected.

Once again, the names of the trans people murdered so far this year include O’Hara, who was 25 years old; Shade Shuler, 22; Amber Monroe, 20; K.C. Haggard, 66; India Clarke, 25; Mercedes Williamson, 17; London Chanel, 21; Kristina Grant Infiniti, 47; Penny Proud, 21; Taja de Jesus, 36; Yazmin Vash Payne, 33; Ty Underwood, 24; Lamia Beard, 30 and Papi Edwards, age 20. Nine of these fourteen people didn’t even make it past the age of 25 and twelve of them were trans women of color.

Rebecca O'Hara, Ashton O'Hara's mother receiving a hug from a supporter. via

Rebecca O’Hara, Ashton O’Hara’s mother receiving a hug from a supporter. via M Live

With Ashton, there have been five — FIVE — trans people murdered in the last month alone. There is an unchecked weapon of mass destruction moving throughout America that is aimed straight at the heart of trans women and dmab trans people of color. This avalanche of murders of Black and Latina trans women don’t seem to cause mainstream society to even bat an eye. We’ve already seen two more murders this year than all of last year and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. My heart is broken, my head is weary and I’m shaking as I’m writing this.

I’m scared — no, I’m terrified for my friends and for my sisters and for my elders. I usually pass as white and I don’t have to worry about many of the other factors that often put trans women in danger of being murdered so I’m not going to sit here and pretend that all of these murders make me a more likely target. As a Latina trans woman, I might be more at risk than others, but I’m not about to co-opt the violence that Black and darker-skinned Latina trans women and dmab trans people face. That’s not what this is about. This is about all of the amazing trans women of color who have helped me, been there for me, have shown me love and have fought to give me the rights and the opportunities that I have today.

I’m terrified for all my trans sisters who are so hated by the men they encounter that they hear a catcall turn into the sound of a fist or a brick or a gun. I’m terrified for all of my trans sisters who are so hated by the men who claim to love them that they end up dead by their hands. I’m terrified for all of my trans sisters who are already not seen as human because they are Black, and have their trans womanhood used as just one more excuse for why they shouldn’t be allowed to live. I’m terrified for all my trans sisters who are afraid to go outside because they know that it’s actually not that unlikely that they’ll be next.

What is it going to take to stop this from happening? I don’t know what I should be doing. I don’t know what else I can say to convince people that society needs to change. Five trans people, four of them trans people of color, have been murdered in the last 30 days and honestly, I’m waiting for more names to be added to this list. Trans women, or rather, white trans women, are all over reality TV right now, and many people are telling the rest of us that that means that we should be happy that we’re getting a lot more visibility. Really though, what is that visibility leading to? Correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, but since we’ve gotten all of this visibility, violence against trans women of color hasn’t gone down, it’s actually gone up. I don’t know how many more times I can read stories like this or write stories like this. I’m so afraid that the next article I write like this will be about one of my friends.

None of what I’m saying hasn’t been said before by other trans women of color, and specifically by Black trans women. You need to go read their words and listen to them. If you have money, you should go and support them financially. If you see transmisogyny and you can call it out, you should. If you can spread education and acceptance, you should do that. Above all, you should listen to them and care about what they’re saying.

I don’t know what else to say. I’m running out of tears, I’m running out of hope and I’m running out of strength. I feel defeated. I feel like my TWOC sisters aren’t safe and aren’t going to be safe any time soon.


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Mey is a bisxual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. Her areas of expertise include comic books, witches, trans issues and pop culture. She has an English Degree, a cat named Sawyer, a twitter that she uses a lot and a tumblr that she only uses occasionally.

Mey has written 473 articles for us.

40 Comments

  1. 0

    Thank you for writing this. It’s really so important. I ask that you not say “still” in the “still using he/him pronouns” sense. It makes assumptions about his future actions that are hurtful to trans people who aren’t viewed as authentic enough unless we perform transition “correctly”. Thank you.

  2. 0

    Those of us who are not in immediate danger need to stand the fuck up and do whatever it takes to see this shit stopped in its tracks, frankly. You’re right: That means listening to the people who live this every day, and trusting them, and having their backs. And if that means taking some lumps in place of our fellow humans who are in more vulnerable positions than us, too, then so be it.

    All my love and strength to you and yours and us and ours, Mey.

  3. 0

    FUCKING GODDAMNIT

    I’m, for lack of a better term, “lucky”- I’m white, and I “pass”. Given that privileged position, it’s statistically unlikely that I’ll wind up the victim of transphobic violence (though that doesn’t mean it’s still not at the back of my mind whenever I’m out in public).

    But it would be really fucking nice if we, as a society, could go a whole fucking week without having another sister die.

    • 0

      I’m in the same position, I’m white, upper middle class, employed, and reasonably passable, at least until someone looks and squints a bit. I know I’m not the primary target of this violence but I’m terrified; I’m terrified for myself, for my friends that I love who are women of color or who don’t pass, for all my sisters that I’ve never met that I love because we have all shared this struggle- and I have no idea what to do, how to help, we have begged and pleaded, reasoned and rationalized, and they won’t stop killing us.

  4. 0

    I’m not trans (I say this to make it clear that I know mothing about how difficult it must be) and I can’t even imagine how terrifying it is to be part of that community right now. I hope that society will wake up soon and realize that human lives matter. These women were all beautiful, not because of the way they looked, but because they dared to be out in a world like this.

    I just want to bring all of you amazing trans ladies to my house and make every night girls’ night and find a way to keep everyone that doesn’t love you and support you far, far away.

    • 0

      (I didn’t mean for that to read as if I were making light of the very real action that needs to take place… Just thatI genuinely wish I had a way to provide safety and comfort, in whatever small way)

  5. 0

    I’m very depressed about this. It feels like it’s been going on forever and nothing changes. The increased societal acceptance of trans people that everyone talks about seems like it’s an illusion for so many of us, especially TWOC. Plus, even though it’s a different issue, there’s the ripple effect: I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that the already-astronomical rate of suicide and attempted suicide among trans people — something that pretty much cuts across age, race, and gender among trans people, and is many multiples of the rates for cis people — seems to be increasing lately, not getting better. Every few days, I hear about someone else on Facebook or in a news story or elsewhere. I hardly know a single trans woman who hasn’t contemplated it at one time or another. Including myself.

  6. 0

    As a trans woman of color this hits way to close to home. So many trans women can’t even escape dangerous situations due to no place to go. I was in that situation many years and so was my girlfriend who was also trans. One of my trans friends was shot a few years ago. Some thing has to be done about this. I feel so sad and angry each time I see another murder and there’s been way too many.

  7. 0

    I so want us all to gather resources to shower each newly trans cutie with full force street fighting self defense courses for FREE. Here it’s called Impact Model Mugging. WE KICK ASS!

  8. 0

    “I’m terrified for all of my trans sisters who are so hated by the men who claim to love them that they end up dead by their hands.”

    Yes, this. I keep thinking about how intimate partner violence is so common and how women are murdered by their partners every day, and how trans women face specific obstacles and barriers institutionally that increase risks of IPV and murder. (Finding this resource kit helpful: http://nbjc.org/sites/default/files/files/ncavp_trans_ipvtoolkit.pdf)It all feels like too much. Sometimes I’m like “argh why doesn’t the mainstream anti sexual violence movement pay more attention to trans women” but mostly I’m like jesus christ when will men stop killing women.

  9. 0

    I have no personal stake in this and never been one for empathy, so I apologize if I come of as an ass. Convincing someone on this site whose not a believer and open to convincing (which is perhaps a rare person) that this is a societal problem rather than a string of personal tragedies requires more than this is the 14th person and its up from last year. 14 without context could be a large or small number. For example including the murder rate (14 out of how many) and comparing it to the murder rate in a different population (strait cis whites or whatever gives you a good sounding number) is more meaningful to someone as ignorant as me who comes across this because some acquaintance posted it. Again, I’m ignorant so if you already do this in other articles I apologize for wasting time and sounding callous.

  10. 0

    DO YOU PEOPLE SERIOUSLY BELIEVE 5 MURDERS IN A MONTH IS SOME HUGE TRAGEDY COMPARED TO THE 25+ MURDERS PER DAY THAT HAPPEN IN THE UNITED STATES????? ARE YOU SERIOUS??? Condolences to the kids who died but 5 people murdered in a month is literally less than 1 percent of the murders that occur in your average US month, there is no latina/black/trans crime wave.

    • 0

      I’m going to respond to this, becuase I think that sharing information is valuable. But please, consider the impact of your words before posting. Ashton just lost his life, and this space is primarily to mourn him and the many other trans and gender non-conforming people whose lives have been taken.

      It is impossible to know the exact rate at which trans people are murdered, which is why the information isn’t included inthe article. We don’t know exactly how many people are trans, and many acts of violence against trans people never come to light due to misgendering by law enforcement and the media. However, the available evidence strongly suggests that trans people (trans women of color in particular) are killed at a disporportionatly high rate. An article from the National Center for Transgender Equality states:

      “Murders of transgender women have never been properly studied. Many cases go unreported or are misclassified, including the victim’s gender identity. Only recently in 2014 has the FBI started to report hate crimes committed on the basis of gender identity as required by the federal 2009 hate crimes law. Yet, what is clear is that transgender women are killed at a disproportionate rate compared to their overall number in the population (less than one percent). The national homicide rate is 4.7 per 100,000—yet at a little more than halfway through the year, we have seen at least 11 killings among an estimated 350,000 adult trans women, almost all of them among trans women of color, who probably number fewer than 135,000. Whether they were killed by a date or a boyfriend, a neighbor or acquaintance, a complete stranger, or by a client while engaged in sex work, their transgender status almost always plays a role in why they are targeted and the brutality directed against them.”

      In addition, survey evidence indicates that trans people face higher than average rates of physical and sexual assault, as well as high rates of homelesses and participation in survival sex work, both of which can force people into unsafe situations and place their lives at risk. Here are some links: http://www.glaad.org/blog/violence-against-transgender-people-and-people-color-disproportionately-high-lgbtqh-murder-rate, http://www.bustle.com/articles/87452-5-shocking-facts-about-transgender-suicide-and-violence-that-you-need-to-know.

      So yes, trans people of color do face an elevated risk of murder and other hate crimes. But even if trans people were killed at the same rate as the general population, every one of these murders would still be a huge tragedy. Every LGBTQ sister, brother, and nin-binary sibling our community loses to hatred and violence deserves to be recognized, aknowledged, and mourned.

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