Feature image via Kourtney Yochum’s Facebook
At 1:20 pm yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles, 32-year-old trans woman of color Kourtney Yochum, who also went by Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum on Facebook, was shot and murdered following a domestic dispute with man who has been arrested. (Some very graphic images have been posted and removed from Kourtney Yochum’s Facebook, so please click through with caution.) Yochum, who lived at the Gateways Apartments, described as a “perm., anent supportive housing project for formerly chronically homeless individuals” by the LA Times, was a beloved member of her community and will be sorely missed. She becomes the seventh trans person murdered in the US this year.
According to Anita Nelson, the Chief Executive of SRO Housing Corporation, who identified Yochum to the Times, Yochum was walking her two dogs when the alleged gunman walked up to her and shot her. After the shooting, the suspect was taken into police custody. Nelson told the Times, “It is mind-boggling; it happened in the open. I’m heartbroken. Our residents are traumatized, our staff is traumatized.” She added that “Everybody loved her. She was very popular.”
When I saw the news that another trans woman had been murdered the same old questions started running through my head. I wondered if she was a woman of color. I wondered if she was the victim of intimate partner violence. I wondered if the number of trans people murdered would keep going up. I wondered if I knew her. When I saw the details, I found out that I was right on most accounts. She was a woman of color, she was apparently murdered after a domestic dispute with her boyfriend or partner, and her death puts us just one behind the number of murdered trans women we were at last year. While I didn’t know her, seeing the outpouring of love from her community and friends broke my heart and broke my spirit.
When all was said and done last year, there were 23 reported murders of transgender people, all of them women, most of them Black, most of the rest Latina and many of them the victims of intimate partner violence. There is a clear pattern and a clear solution to stopping this absurdly terrifying number of murders. We need to get the message across that trans women are women, and that they deserve to be treated like human beings. It sounds simple, but trans women have been saying this for years and it seems like things are just getting worse.
I don’t know what to do anymore. I keep on writing the same thing every time this happens. I keep on saying that this mostly happens to Black and Latina trans women. I keep on saying that it mostly happens to trans women who sleep with men. I keep on saying that it’s on those men to stop this epidemic of violence. I keep on saying that we need to listen to and protect trans women of color and sex workers. I keep on saying that if society will just agree to finally see and treat trans women as women, than many of these murders will stop. Because the men who sleep with trans women are often afraid of being caught, or angry they were “tricked” or ashamed of what they’ve done, or afraid sleeping with a trans woman makes them gay, they lash out and beat, abuse and kill the women they say they love. I, and many others, keep on talking about all these same things and asking all the same questions, but still, the murders keep on happening. I don’t know what new questions to ask. I don’t know what new solutions to look for.
As if to kick the trans community while we were down last night, North Carolina also passed a horrific bill that bans LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinances in the state and forces trans people to use incorrect bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms. This bill, signed by Republican Governor Pat McCrory, is exactly the kind of thing that encourages people to murder trans women like Yochum. Under the premise of “protecting religious liberty” and “keeping women and girls safe in restrooms and changing rooms,” bills like this one tell people that trans women are men, that they’re predators, that they’re criminals and that they’re deviants. That they’re freaks who don’t deserve to be treated with any kind of respect or humanity.
This evil law in North Carolina eclipsed the news of Yochum’s death last night. If you looked at Twitter, it would have seemed like this kind of bill has no public support. But the thing is, anti-trans bills are actually extremely politically savvy. In fact, the Republican National Committee itself, endorsed “bathroom bills” back at the beginning of this year. These aren’t fringe politicians or regional beliefs, this is part of the official national Republican platform. That’s correct: the official position of the Republican Party in the United States of America is to actively make trans people’s lives worse and to make trans people, and especially trans women, more unsafe then they are right now, which, frankly, is hard to imagine.
Yochum joins trans women of color Monica Loera, Jasmine Sierra, and Maya Young, as well as Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson, a Black, genderfluid teen and Demarkis Stansberry and Kayden Clarke, two trans men, as the seventh trans person murdered this year. Clarke, who was shot by police, was white. Seven trans people this year, six trans people of color. That’s two every month, and we’re not even done with March yet.