Trans activists say community shouldn’t live in fear

Kendall Stephens was attacked by neighbors last year in Point Breeze.

LGBTQ advocates called for an end to violence against transgender people Monday after a stabbing earlier this month left a woman seriously injured.

A 32-year-old trans woman was hospitalized and now has to use a walker after she was stabbed multiple times by a man who allegedly ripped her clothes off March 20 inside a home in East Mount Airy.

The attack followed the killings of Tracy Mia Green and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, both Black trans women, last year.

Green, 29, was found with a gunshot wound to the neck when police officers pulled over a car Sept. 28 in West Philadelphia. The driver, 28-year-old Abdullah Ibn El-Amin Jaamia, is facing murder charges.

In June, the dismembered body of Fells was discovered in the Schuylkill River near Bartram’s Garden. Akhenaton Jones, the man wanted in connection with the killing, was on the run before being apprehended in Los Angeles in November.

Among those who spoke at a news conference Monday organized by District Attorney Larry Krasner was Kendall Stephens, a trans woman and student at Temple University.

A group of neighbors burst into Stephen’s Point Breeze home and beat her in front of her 12 and 16-year-old godchildren on the night of Aug. 24. The assailants allegedly used slurs, including “tranny,” and hit her in the head with a flower pot.

“I couldn’t walk my street without my own neighborhood harassing me, bullying me, making me feel unsafe and unwelcome,” Stephens said Monday.

“My very existence as a trans woman was enough to deem me unworthy of kindness, decency, respect and civility,” she added.

Krasner’s office is in the process of creating an LGBTQ advisory board, which will meet regularly with him and other top officials to review policies and recommend changes, he said.

Crimes against trans people have not always been treated seriously by investigators, Krasner said, resulting in a distrust between the LGBTQ community and authorities.

“Not serving marginalized people is a pretty good way to encourage crime,” he added. “It is not just that it hurts them to have that kind of criminal justice system. It is that it hurts all of us to have that kind of criminal justice system.”

Nationwide, at least 12 trans or gender non-conforming people have been murdered in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization. Last year, that number was 44, the most since the group began tracking the violence in 2013.

In a majority of cases, the victims have been trans women of color.

“I shouldn’t have to fear walking into any building in this city, walking down any street in this city,” said Deja Lynn Alvarez, a trans woman and prominent community activist. “I shouldn’t have to be told that I’m a statistic.”

Deja Lynn Alvarez speaks Monday, March 29, at a news conference calling for an end to violence against transgender people.

After Stephens was attacked, residents from throughout the city sent her cards, brought her food and came to her house to express support. One person even replaced a doorbell security camera that had been ripped out.

“That’s the Philadelphia I believe in,” she said. “That is the Philadelphia I’m going to continue to fight for.”

“We have a long road ahead of us to reclaim our city, but the journey has to start somewhere,” Stephens added.

Officials did not specify a timeline for the DA’s advisory council and said they are still working to set up a selection process. It’s not clear how many members will serve on the committee.

Anyone interested in joining can reach out to Kelly Burkhardt, the office’s LGBTQ liasion, at 215-686-8909.

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