Celine Walker becomes fourth reported transgender homicide victim in 2018

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. | Celine Walker became the fourth reported transgender homicide victim this year on Feb. 4, though news of her death was delayed after local police reportedly misgendered her and utilized her birth name in official reports.

Walker, a 36-year-old transgender woman of color, was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound at an Extended Stay America hotel near the St. Johns Town Center. According to transgender advocate Monica Roberts of the TransGriot blog, “the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is claiming they have a policy that does not refer to victims as transgender.”

“We remain committed to ending the senseless violence that disproportionately claims the lives of transgender women of color in Florida and around the nation,” Equality Florida’s statement on Walker’s death reads. “Even as we grieve, we must also organize and educate.”

“We urge law enforcement and the criminal justice system to start investigating transgender murders without negating the identity of the victim and in a manner that allows a clear determination of whether the crime was motivated by anti-transgender hatred,” the organization’s director of transgender equality Gina Duncan says. “The relentless violence against transgender women of color is a national tragedy and we must work together as a community to stop it.”

“It is time to update state hate-crimes laws and local law-enforcement policies to ensure that transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are offered explicit protection,” Duncan continues. “Otherwise, our trans and gender non-conforming community will be further silenced, marginalized, unrecognized and under protected.”

Activists gathered across the state on Feb. 18 in a call for action following Walker’s death. “Trans people are not just murdered randomly, we’re murdered 99 times out of 100 because someone figured out that we were trans and was upset about it,” FSU Professor Dr. Petra Doan told a local ABC affiliate near Florida’s capitol.

In Jacksonville, friends and supporters of Walker’s gathered at a vigil at Friendship Fountain to raise awareness and remember her life. “I’m here to be the voice for her and all of the rest of the transgender women who don’t have a voice that have been murdered,” transgender activist Paige Mahogany Parks told the city’s News 4. “She lived her life as a woman. She lived her life in peace.”

“Together, Equality Florida, TransAction Florida and the ACLU of Florida support the transgender women of color who are speaking out against the violence and stigma they experience every day,” Equality Florida says. “We must follow the lead of the amazing trans women of color in Jacksonville and across the state who are demanding accountability from a transphobic society bent on eradicating trans women. We must join our trans sisters in the fight for their right to exist free of violence in our country.”

According to a recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, transgender women of color, and specifically black transgender women, account for 72 percent of transgender homicide victims since 2010.

Image from Gina Duncan’s Facebook page.

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