Trans Latina Monica Loera Murdered in Texas, Misgendered by Police and Media for a Week

Monica Loera was a 43 year-old Latina trans woman from Austin, Texas who loved Madonna and cooking. She was shot and murdered on January 22 at 3 AM in front of her home. According to Austin Police Department reports, neighbors overheard Loera and the suspect, JonCasey Rowell, arguing at the door when they heard a gunshot. Loera was a sex worker and Rowell was likely her customer. She’s the first reported trans person murdered in the United States this year.

To add to the tragedy, when Loera was murdered, she was misgendered by the Austin Police and local media. Trans women of color like Loera face enough disrespect and dehumanization in life, and they hardly need more in death. Because of this misgendering, her murder wasn’t reported as a murder of a trans woman until a week after her death. That’s seven whole days where she was being misgendered and disrespected over and over again without her community standing up for her and respecting her memory.

Monica Loera via Facebook

Monica Loera via Facebook

I’ve been crying for Loera all night. When a murdered trans woman is misgendered by the media and police, like what happened to her, it feels like the police and media are spitting on her grave. Monica Loera was a woman, and to treat her like she wasn’t is to insult her memory and all that she did in her life.

When a murdered trans woman is treated like a man in death, it fuels the kinds of attitudes that cause every real life trans woman to face a higher risk of physical violence. It treats trans women like they’re “men in dresses” who are lying about who they are and maybe even deserved the horrible violence that caused their death. All of us mourn when another one of our sisters is murdered, and all of us become afraid when we see her misgendered in death.

It’s one thing when random, individual people misgender a trans woman, but it’s a different thing when those in power do it. Police and the news media have power and influence over the public. When they misuse that power and influence by doing things like misgendering murdered trans women, they’re letting people know that it’s okay to treat trans women like garbage. They’re encouraging transmisogyny. This changes the misgendering from an individual act of violence to structural oppression that effects trans women everywhere.

Even when a woman fills her social media with pictures of herself, the police and media will still dig up pictures of her presenting as a man for their reports and articles. This is what happened to Loera. The police and news reports respected her alleged murderer, JonCasey Rowell, by printing his correct name and picture, but refused to allow Loera the same thing.

Monica Loera via Facebook

Monica Loera via Facebook

Being misgendered after I die is something I’m constantly afraid of, and something that keeps me up at night. As trans women, we have to work so hard to get people to respect our womanhood, and often, even our personhood, and to think that all of that effort will be wasted once I’m dead makes me feel hopeless. In America, trans women don’t get the last word on our womanhood. Why should I even try to convince people I’m a woman when my death certificate will list me as male?

I’m even more afraid for my trans sisters. Trans women of color, and especially Black trans women, and especially those who sleep with men, face a horrifyingly high risk of violence and being murdered, and the laws in America make it likely that they’ll be misgendered after death. I’ve been lucky in that I have a family who accepts me and I’ve been able to legally change my name. Those are things that many trans people don’t ever have, meaning that they don’t have those protections from being misgendered. It’s ridiculous that it costs so much and takes so long to get a legal name change. It’s ridiculous that in many states you need to medically transition, which is too expensive for some and not desired by some, in order to change your gender marker. It’s ridiculous that in Idaho and Tennessee, nothing you do will let you change the gender marker on your birth certificate.

Last year, there was a record number of reported murders of trans women, with at least 23 murders being reported. Nearly all of them were trans women of color and most were Black trans women. In addition to being women of color, many trans women who are murdered are the victims of intimate partner violence, whether by a boyfriend, someone they recently met or a client in the case of a sex worker. Heteronormativity and fragile, toxic masculinity combine to create an atmosphere where men feel that there is shame in sleeping with trans women, and that they have the right to attack a trans woman if they feel like they were being deceived or they might be found out.

I shouldn’t need to say this, but trans women are absolutely not being deceptive by being themselves. Trans women are women, and we’re not trying to trick anyone. There’s no shame at all in being attracted to or sleeping with trans women, and the sooner this becomes widely accepted the sooner trans women will stop being murdered by the dozens.

Monica Loera deserved to live a long and happy life. She deserved to be respected and treated like the woman she was. She deserves to be respected now in death.


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Mey Valdivia Rude is a bisexual Latina trans woman living in Los Angeles. She's a writer, comic consultant and a trans activist. She's a bruja, a femme, a pop princess and she loves comic books, witches, dinosaurs and crying. She has a cat named Sawyer and a very successful twitter.

Mey has written 525 articles for us.

14 Comments

    • A couple things you can do include finding out if there are any efforts in your city or state to pass laws that would help and protect trans people (easier name and gender changes, non-discrimination ordinances, access to women’s shelters) and do what you can to support them. You can also just make sure you seek out the voices of trans women, and especially twoc, who face the most violence, and listen to what they have to say. this article also has a lot of other actions you cat take.

      • Thank you, Mey. When I wrote “What can we do?”, I wasn’t sure whether it was a cry, a rhetorical question, or an actual question. Taking it as an actual question is more productive, so thank you. And that article was certainly worth re-reading.

  1. There’s something especially horrifying about them misgendering her when she isn’t here to advocate for herself. Fuck the police.

    Every time I read about the murder of a trans woman of colour my heart breaks and I hope this will be the last time I come across this kind of headline. Thank you, Mey, for writing such a difficult but necessary piece. This is a moving affirmation of Monica Loera’s right to human dignity and I hope that her loved ones will read it and take comfort in seeing her properly recognized.

  2. We will suffer this until children are taught to accept: that individual perception of the self is the reality and, we tend to differ in many ways in that respect.

    Academia has been less than helpful in this respect on the whole.

    If as an academic you don’t really know what to say; and, absent any foundation for an understanding of perception: please, even if there is a buck in it, don’t say anything!

  3. Depressing how common stories like these are. I keep trying to explain to men: a trans woman is not trying to “deceive you,” if anything she’s being honest with herself. People need to understand this concept.

  4. So sad and horrible.

    I can’t find the words to go with all my feelings about Monica Loera’s murder and treatment by police and media after her death. But I couldn’t not say anything. This is too terrible.

  5. I’m sorry for your loss. I know you didn’t know her, but I know that every time I see an article about a lesbian murdered in a hate crime, I feel terrified, and a little bit like I lost someone. To see her disrespected on such a deep level must really hit home. Whenever we lose a member of the LGBTQ community in such a violent way, I try to remind myself about the beauty of my friends and the bonds we build and all the love we have that honestly just isn’t possible in the cishet world. That isnt very well articulated and is a little cheesy but I hope you feel better soon <3

  6. The email notification of this article cut off the headline, so I only saw “Trans Latina Monica Loera…” and I thought to myself, “Ooh! Did she give a sweet interview? Write a comic book? Have a part in a cool new television show?” followed shortly by, “…Oh. Or maybe she was murdered.”

    I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate everything about that, that that’s a very probable way for TWOC to come to notoriety instead of any of the other ways. So much pain

  7. This breaks my heart. It can be emotionally exhausting to feel like you’re fighting the world and that the system gets the last say in who you truly are. I have known way too many of my friends who have been physically assaulted, committed suicide, or even been murdered for ‘living while trans’. I myself have been physically (and even sexually) assaulted more than once so I know this on an intimate level. That said, I am one of the lucky ones.

    I’ve been fortunate to create a career for myself in an area that has strong service, housing, employment protections for trans individuals. I have also been able to get most of my legal IDs in order but will not be able to get the birth certificate resolved as I had the misfortune of being born in OH (Ohio is the 3rd of the unholy trinity states that don’t allow updating of current or new birth certificates, regardless of if one has had gender confirmation surgery or not). Luckily one can circumvent this to some degree with an updated passport.

    Still, this fear of being ultimately disregarded as your true self is real for the trans community. Now more than ever we need the vigilance and support of our friends and allies.

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