Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Transgender victim found dead in Memphis

Earlier this afternoon, I received a phone call from a local television station about the murder of an African American transgender woman. Her body was found outside a vacant apartment complex near a daycare center at Lamar and Getwell in Memphis.

Late night news reports from other television media released the given name of the victim as Rodney Whitaker. The specific circumstances leading to her death are not known at this time. But there is reason to believe this is a hate crime fueled by transphobia. Memphis police officers are searching for any possible witnesses. If you have information that could aid police, call CrimeStoppers at 901-528-CASH.

The recent news of the terrible beating of Duanna Johnson by Memphis police heightened everyone's awareness of the violence directed at transgender citizens in our city. Is the public hearing about this new crime against a transgender citizen because of Duanna's high profile case? Or is this merely a coincidence? Channel 5 did not even mention in their report that the victim was transgender. Have previous transgender murder victims not been reported as such?

Will irrational fear and violence continue to define Memphis? Or will our community admit to the underlying prejudice that has been thrust before us? When will our community realize that all citizens deserve to live in safety regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression? Will elected officials, civil rights leaders, church leaders and other organizations join the cry for justice and meaningful reform of our society's policies and laws?

This horrible incident must serve as a reminder to all citizens and our governments of the need to add gender identity and expression to existing state and federal hate crime laws so that these terrible acts can be properly recorded, investigated and prosecuted as hate crimes.

Please keep the victim and her friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.


manicsquirrel said...

The newscasts that I watched referred to her as a "transgender man". I still think we have a long way to go in educating the media.

I hope this doesn't happen again in Memphis because I'm starting to think that community has a real problem with transgender people.

kevinjamesmemphis said...

Ebony (a.k.a) Rodney Whitaker was one of the sweetest and caring ppl you could ever meet. Ebony cared about those around her and would do her very best to help them if needed. Ebony was young with a good head on her shoulders. She knew how to make you laugh when you felt like crying, Now im crying and theres no one to make me laugh. Ebony U will be forever loved and missed by many... I remember when you came by just because you missed me. I never told you how much I missed you but I did!!! Love you Ebony! Kevin