Police and Media Royally Botch Response to First Recorded Murder of Trans Woman in 2019

Illustration for article titled Police and Media Royally Botch Response to First Recorded Murder of Trans Woman in 2019
Photo: Dana Martin (Facebook)

We’ve started 2019 by continuing to fail black trans women.

On Sunday night, 31-year-old Dana Martin was found left for dead with a gunshot wound “in a car that had crashed in a ditch” in Montgomery, Ala., according to AL.com. Police think the shooting happened near the vehicle, and no arrests have been made.


Despite local community members identifying Martin as a black trans woman, the Montgomery Police Department misgendered her and called it a matter of policy, AL.com writes:

“Please note that MPD publicly identified the victim as male as determined by legal documents and forensic evaluation,” said [MPD Captain Regina] Duckett. “For MPD, how a homicide victim identifies is a personal matter that becomes relevant to our investigation only if it is determined to be a reason the victim was killed.”

I’ll be frank: It is incredibly stupid and horrifyingly irresponsible to so willfully ignore the context in which trans women must survive as to not only misgender a murder victim but also assume, at any point, that being trans didn’t play a role in her murder. But then, Alabama’s existing hate crime law does not include “sexual orientation or gender identity,” so it would probably take a gargantuan effort for this case to be considered properly in the first place: As one of several continued attacks on trans women’s safety and humanity.

Trans women, especially black trans women, are at an extremely high proportional risk of being victims of violence. At least 25 were murdered in 2018, and it’s likely that the actual number is far higher—for the exact reason that police and media routinely and asininely continue to misgender victims and thus obscure the realities of their cases.

The Montgomery Advertiser, KFSA, and likely more outlets avoided mentioning Martin’s gender in their articles on the case, an utterly cowardly and outright dangerous move. Deaths of trans people are already difficult to track for this exact reason, and it shouldn’t be difficult at this point to respect others’ wishes. As much as we wring our hands in this country over speaking ill of the dead and respecting the lives of the deceased, we sure don’t hesitate to spit in the faces of murdered trans women.

How clear does it have to be that we live in a nation where being trans is often a death sentence, and how far do we have to allow it to go before we acknowledge the ways in which we’re complicit? How obtuse must we be to deny the ways—implicit and explicit—in which we contribute, both tacitly and explicitly, in the media? How much longer will people continue to bullshit and equivocate and place their own fragile senses of self and of comfort above the lives of these women? How much longer will people pretend to adhere to “fact” and “logic” and “biology” when we can clearly see the truth rearing its head behind those specious claims: that this world simply hates trans women?


We must do better—these women’s lives depend on it. And for those who aren’t ready to do better: Sit down, shut up, and lie to yourselves instead of lying to us. Because we see you.

Natalie Degraffinried is a senior editor for Kotaku.



Transmisogynoir is depressing in that it’s just adding another layer to issues that black women already have a hard enough time getting people to take seriously. I hope that all of the cis ones who have smoke for days when it comes to white women understand how they can be operators of erasure too. Think it’s BS that black men are taking up for R Kelly cuz white men get away with it? Have that same energy for black women who want that white TERF protection.