Black trans woman 'burned beyond recognition' in Florida is 18th trans woman killed in U.S. in 2019

Photo of Black trans woman 'burned beyond recognition' in Florida is 18th trans woman killed in U.S. in 2019

Bee Love Slater, a 23-year-old black transgender woman, was found in a torched car in Clewiston, Florida, on Sept. 4. According to the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office, Slater’s body was “burned beyond recognition.” While the investigation is still ongoing, the sheriff’s office said that Slater’s death cannot yet be confirmed as a hate crime, though it is being investigated as a homicide. But for the LGBTQ community, history speaks for itself: The motive is hate.

''She had a really, really good heart," said Kenard Wade, a friend of Slater’s. "She would never harm anyone, never put anyone in harm's way. How could someone go to that extreme to get rid of her?" He said that Slater had received threats the same night as the fire, and that she was even planning to leave the area to avoid possible trouble.

Investigators said Slater’s death was one of the most brutal murders they had ever seen. She was ultimately identified by her dental records.

“She always had a smile on her face. She always was caring,” friend Desmond Vereen said. “She always gave hugs and kisses, always told you that she loved you.”

The Human Rights Campaign reports that Slater is the 18th transgender woman to be killed in the U.S. in 2019 alone. Eleven of those 18 died from gun violence.

In 2017, the number of transgender women killed was to 29. In 2018, it reached 26. An important caveat here, too, is that there may be trans people who were killed but aren’t included in reports because they were misgendered in death or were not openly trans to those who responded after their deaths.

Just days before Slater’s death, another transgender woman was shot and killed. Bailey Reeves, just 17 years old, was from Baltimore. She was killed on Labor Day.

Make no mistake: Violence against transgender women is an epidemic. The American Medical Association uses the exact word to describe the fatal attacks against trans people. Earlier this summer, the AMA offered a plan to educate people on hate crimes; increase access to mental health care for LGBTQ people; and advocate for strong laws and protections, in hopes of reducing the chronic violence against LGBTQ people, and especially the most vulnerable.

“According to available tracking, fatal anti-transgender violence in the U.S. is on the rise and most victims were black transgender women," AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala said in a June press release. “The number of victims could be even higher due to underreporting and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence.​​​​​​”

Remember: There are no protections for transgender people on the federal level. The Trump administration continues to stomp out protections for the LGBTQ community. Raising awareness and speaking the names of those lost is certainly important, but it’s also important not to let these stories become sensationalized or “trauma porn.” Taking action is what can save lives.

Taking action looks different depending on where you live and what resources you have available to you, of course. It might mean reaching out to local politicians to support trans-inclusive bills, volunteering at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen that explicitly welcomes and supports trans people, or advocating for more trans-inclusive policies at your workplace or school. Saying names is important, but it isn’t the beginning and end of allyship. To really support trans people—and particularly vulnerable trans people of color—we must act.

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