In April 2017, Kenne McFadden — a Black, working class, transgender woman — was pushed into the San Antonio River and drowned. After an announcement this week that her killer would not face prosecution, in spite of admitting that he committed the crime, Kenne’s friends, family, and the Texas LGBTQ community rose up to demand justice.
At an event held in San Antonio’s historical gay neighborhood, speakers from the San Antonio Pride Center, the San Antonio Gender Association, Black Lives Matter, and The Transgender Education Network of Texas discussed the casual indifference that elected politicians show transgender people.
One speaker drew a parallel between the silence surrounding the murder of transgender women and the spread of HIV that indifferent politicians permitted in the 1980s. Other commentators discussed how 2017 saw the highest murder rates of transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, and yet politicians debated bathroom bills that position transgender people as perpetrators of violence. These measures are not meant to protect transgender people but rather demonize us, justifying even homicide.
In March 2017, the Texas Senate approved SB6, a bill designed to segregate transgender children out of the bathrooms and changing rooms that conform to their actual gender and into those of their assigned gender. The demonization starts early and continues throughout life, often with the result of lowered life expectancies. One speaker stated that, of the 18 transgender women who were murdered last year, 12 of them were under 40. And two of these victims were 17-year-old children! In spite of these outrages against transgender people, many politicians are silent or are actively contributing to our oppression.
Additionally, the speakers demanded accountability for Judge Contreras. During the murderer’s hearing, it was reported by Kenne’s mother, Joann, that the judge ate snacks. He also leaned his head back and closed his eyes at one point, giving the impression that he was napping. This hurt her deeply, as she watched an elected official whose job it is to facilitate justice for her child demonstrate indifference and disregard.
One must question how much attention he paid during the hearings to conclude that what happened was a “terrible tragedy” and not a deliberate act of murder, since Kenne’s murderer admitted to pushing her in the river, knowing she could not swim. The speakers also demanded accountability from District Attorney Nico Lahood for his poor representation of Kenne.
Another topic the speakers covered was the fact of our basic humanity and need for dignity. We are not dangerous or dirty, we are people with the same needs as all others. All the speakers pointed to the indifference and violence we experience because of our oppression, but they also insisted that we will not give up and we will fight! To live our truth is to refuse to be defeated.
And though we experience a unique oppression as transgender people, we also experience have many things that unite us with other oppressed people. We experience exploitation as worker; many of us are people of color and all transgender people experience gender oppression. To recognize this shared struggle and to act in solidarity with each other is essential to ending all forms of oppression and exploitation.
At the end of the rally, Kenne’s mother spoke at length about her love for her daughter and pleaded with parents to love and appreciate their children as they are. She acknowledged that she was unable to fully understand Kenne’s experiences, but still loved her and stood by her. Joann discussed how Kenne struggled with hostility even before her murder.
This is a story that’s all too familiar to transgender people, particularly transgender women of color. This is not a fight transgender people should have to wage alone. A truly revolutionary movement acknowledges this special oppression and mobilizes people of all genders to stand shoulder to shoulder across the world to loudly demand justice for Kenne and all exploited people!