The 2019 Transgender Day of Remembrance will be observed in Houston on November 20 at three different events. The memorials will be especially sad this year, as two of the nation’s 22 transgender victims lived in Houston. Four of the murders occurred in Texas. All but one of the 22 U.S. deaths were black transgender women.
The Houston Transgender Unity Committee will hold their November 20 event at Brazil Café, 2604 Dunlavy Street, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Loren Turner, Chair of the Houston Transgender Unity Committee, explains the significance of Transgender Day of Remembrance events held across the country. “We [hold these events to] honor those in our worldwide community who were killed during the previous year because they were transgender individuals. Each year’s list is long—much too long.
“Sadly, this year’s list includes two of Houston’s own. Itali Marlowe and Tracy Single, two more beautiful black transgender women, have been taken from us. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of these two young ladies. I don’t know of anything that can end their suffering, but please let justice be served.
“If anyone needs to talk about these ladies—if they need to release—come to our event. We are offering a safe and affirming environment to share stories and talk about those we have lost. If you are a part of the transgender community, a friend, or an ally, you are welcome.”
Activist Dee Dee Watters will host an event at St. Luke the Evangelist Episcopal Church, 3530 Wheeler Avenue, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Watters notes that this year’s theme is “I Am!” “Join us for a night of remembrance as we honor those murdered in the U.S. and uplift those of us left here. We will #SayTheirNames as we remember them, all the while acknowledging ourselves. There will be speakers, performances, and something specifically for the community.”
Activist Ana Andrea Molina and the Organizacion Latina de Trans en Texas will host an event at Bering Church, 1440 Harold Street, beginning at 5:30 PM.
Molina says, “This year has been a very difficult time for our trans community – deaths due to hate and political attacks by the national administration, as well as the criminalization of transgender immigrants. We are preparing an event like every year, open to our entire LGBTQI community in Houston. We will remember each one of our sisters and light a candle for them and keep its light on. We will be featuring folk music and Latinx traditions so that everyone is filled with love and culture. We will be offering a dinner in honor of all those transgender women and men who are survivors. We will have a brief but very important presentation about “The Importance of our Mental Health.” We will perform the Muxe candle dance, with original music of our indigenous peoples. There will be many surprises to make this a great night for the members of our community and that the light of our dead sisters will still be alive in our joyful hearts.”
On September 20, the Houston Police Department (HPD) responded to a call at 15829 Ridgeroe Lane, where it was discovered that 29-year-old Itali Marlowe had been shot multiple times. Paramedics transported her to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
According to HPD Homicide Division detectives W. Huff and J. Nguyen, charges have been filed against Raymond Donald Williams, 23, who is the sole suspect in Marlowe’s murder. Williams, who was living with Marlowe, was arrested on October 17.
Marlowe was deadnamed and misgendered in her obituary. Her death would likely have gone undocumented if not for a local LGBTQ leader who became aware that Marlowe had not shown up for a scheduled appointment. Marlowe’s family was contacted, and they responded that she had been shot in late September.
The local leader contacted local trans activist Dee Dee Watters, who contacted HPD. On October 9, HPD issued a revised statement that identified the murder victim as a transgender woman. Trans activist Monica Roberts then documented the death on her Trangriot website.
Marlowe’s death prompted transgender activists to disrupt the televised October 10 CNN/HRC LGBTQ town-hall event in Los Angeles. Activists shouted “People are dying, do something!” and “Trans lives matter!” Protestor Blossom Brown later grabbed a microphone and shouted, “Black trans women are dying, our lives matter!” Candidates and moderators praised the protestors.
Dr. Jonatan Gioia met Itali Marlowe in 2018 through a local healthcare advocacy project. Giola says Marlowe was working at Whataburger at the time. Marlowe had moved to Atlanta, but returned to Houston earlier this year. “She had a strong personality—she could light up a room,” Gioia says.
Gioia spoke with Marlowe on numerous occasions. “She talked about her dreams—getting a job, buying a house. She wanted to thrive. She was a cheerful person, easy to get along with. She was proud to be a transgender woman. She will be missed a lot.”
Violence against black trans women
In recent years, activists and LGBTQ organizations have begun documenting the relentless violence against transgender individuals, the majority of whom are Black trans women. Ten deaths were documented in 2014, 23 in 2015, 27 in 2016, 29 in 2017, and 26 in 2018.
The Human Rights Campaign reports that many victims are killed by acquaintances and partners. “Some of them have been arrested and charged, while others have yet to be identified. Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias. In others, the victim’s transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as forcing them into homelessness.”
In addition to Marlowe, the other three 2019 Texas victims include:
Tracy Single, 22, was found dead in a Houston gas station parking lot on July 30, having suffered severe lacerations and puncture wounds. In her honor, Houston illuminated City Hall in the pink, blue, and white colors of the trans Pride flag for two days in August, and illuminated a section of the freeway overpass bridges in the heavily LGBTQ Montrose neighborhood in the same colors. Joshua Dominic Bourgeois, 25, was arrested on August 23 and is charged with Single’s murder. Police said the two had been dating. (A remembrance of Single’s life appeared in the September 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.)
Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was found shot to death in Dallas on May 18, one month after she was attacked and beaten by a mob at an apartment complex. In June, Dallas police arrested Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 33, and charged him with Booker’s murder. Lyles was already in custody on charges of murdering two non-trans people in unrelated incidents.
Chynal Lindsey, 26, was pulled from White Rock Lake in Dallas on June 1. The Dallas police said her body displayed “obvious signs of homicidal violence.” The police have reached out to the FBI for help in solving Lindsey’s murder.
This article appears in the November 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.