On Wednesday, 41-year-old Black trans woman Mesha Caldwell was found shot to death just outside Canton, Mississippi. She is the first reported trans murder of 2017, which is a monumentally fucked up sentence to have to write. Mesha Caldwell is the first. Her name will be at the top of every list we write of murdered trans women this year. There will be a list. Last year 23 trans people were reported murdered in the United States, breaking the previous year’s record of 22 trans murders.
According to Mic, Mesha Caldwell was a beautician and hairstylist. A family friend told Mic: “She always, always dressed like a girl. And as she grew up, she became beautiful just like a lady … I really don’t know why somebody would want to kill her … I don’t care what she put on. It looked good on her.” According to her Facebook profile, Mesha graduated from Canton High School and attended Jackson State University.
Here she is with her mom on Mother’s Day this year.
Most of the trans women who are reported murdered are victims of intimate partner violence, and most of their partners are men. Most of the trans women who are victims of murder are trans women of color, mostly Black trans and Latinx women. Trans women of color exist at the terrifying intersection of misogyny, racism, and transphobia. They are, by far, the victims of the most hate crimes in the LGBT community.
What’s extra horrifying this year is that the United States just elected a woman-hating, POC-hating, trans-hating, queer-hating president and vice-president, which has only emboldened Republican-led state legislatures. Five days into 2017 and trans-scapegoating legislation has already been introduced by GOP politicians around the country as Washington, Virginia, Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas filed “privacy acts” (formerly “bathroom bills”) as soon as their 2017 legislative sessions began. North Carolina’s HB2 is still essentially in effect too, thanks to deceitful bargaining from the GOP-led congress.
All of these initiatives are led by the “Family Research Council,” a white evangelical anti-LGBT group that seeks to gain political power by villainizing and dehumanizing gay and trans people. In 2016 44 anti-trans bills were introduced into state legislatures during the first three months of the year, surpassing the 21 that were introduced in 2015. You can expect a record year of hate-fueled legislation with Trump in the White House, especially since trans scapegoating has become a pet project of Breitbart.
The coming years are going to be the fights of our lives.
A note from our Trans Editor, Mey Rude:
If we’re going to claim to be allies and sisters and lovers and friends of Black and brown trans women, we can’t just only talk about them when they get murdered. That’s not really doing anything to help them. We need to hire Black and brown trans women, we need to pay Black and brown trans women, we need to listen to Black and brown trans women. I’m a trans Latina but I have a lot of privilege because of how light my skin is, but it pierces my heart every time someone from my twoc community is murdered like this. There are plenty of us who are ready and capable to take this problem on. But we need help. It’s hard for us to get jobs and housing and healthcare and just support. We need cis people and white people to step up and support us while we’re alive. Please, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m okay begging for help. If you search this site and the internet you’ll see Black and brown trans women telling you what you need to do. You need to listen.
You can start by reading this list of 24 things you can do to help trans women right now. If you live in a state that is planning to (or already has) introduced trans-scapegoating legislation, you can call your state representatives.
This is the list of trans women murdered so far in 2017.
Mesha Caldwell, 41 (Canton, Mississippi)