05 April 2012

Coko Williams, Murdered In Detroit

"Her throat was slashed and she was shot."

A friend of mine read that sentence to me during our phone conversation.  "If that sentence had appeared all by itself," this friend said, "I would have guessed that a transgender woman had been murdered."

This time it was in Detroit.  Coko Williams' body was found during the early hours of Tuesday morning, in an area of the city known for sex traffic.  However, authorities say they're not certain as to whether Ms. Williams was involved in any sex work.  According to those who knew her, she was never involved in prostitution or any other kind of work that would have sexually exploited her.

From what I've been hearing and reading, there's been an epidemic of violence against LGBT people--the T's in particular--in the Motor City.  If that's true, then it's evidence that something I've feared, even before I undertook my transition, may be coming to pass.  

Detroit is a desperate city.  Many people have already left--It now has fewer people than it had in 1900--and many of those who have remained are unemployed and will never again have jobs, or have never had jobs in the first place.  The anger and frustration of such people is reason enough to fear:  While most won't turn it outward and against other people, some will.  And the ones who get the brunt of their anger are almost invariably those who have even less power than they have.  

The situation there makes people in nearby areas fearful.  They are afraid that the violence and other problems--of which they have little to no understanding--will spill over into their communities if it isn't checked.  Right-wing politicians knead and stretch this fear, and stir some brand or another of religious fundamentalism into the fold, making for a volatile mix.  

Ronald Reagan based his political career on doing exactly what I've described.  His "moment of opportunity" came with the riots in the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles.  The following year, he was elected Governor of California.  In the ensuing years, violence against blacks and Chicanos increased.

Now we have politicians like Rick Santorum, and their followers, who are convinced that marginalized people are nothing but sponges for their tax dollars, and that any violence against, or disease contracted by, LGBT people is "God's retribution" or some such thing.   People who are afraid of losing their communities and countries to "others" are receptive to the messages of folks like Santorum, who may actually beat Mitt Romey--whose father was a Governor of Michigan--in the State's Republican Presidential primary.

Such an atmosphere cannot make things safer for any member of a "minority" group, especially trans people.  The irony is that the people who are convinced, or can convince others, that we are some Levitical "abomination" that will destroy the fabric of this society also see us as expendable and will attack us rather than others who are more numerous and have more resources.  

I really hope that neither Detroit nor any other city will experience another murder so brutal and senseless as that of Coko Williams.  Hey, I hope not to be the next Coko Williams!  And I hope the authorities in Detroit take the investigation of her murder more seriously than their counterparts in other places have taken the brutal, grisly killings of too many of our sisters.