News (USA)

Third Black trans woman killed in Milwaukee in less than 9 months

Memorial candles with the trans flag overlayed
Photo: Bil Browning/Shutterstock

Milwaukee has seen three Black transgender women murdered within the past nine months. Most recently, 31-year-old Cashay Henderson was shot and killed late last month inside her home, which was subsequently set on fire.

Just weeks before, Henderson was mourning the deaths of friends she had lost. On her Facebook page, she wrote that she was thankful no one had to write “rest in peace” alongside her name.

“I would have a fear in my heart for her,” Henderson’s cousin, Veronica Beck, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I just never thought it would happen to her.”

Henderson’s fear was shared by many in the city’s LGBTQ+ community, which recently gathered for a vigil at the Milwaukee LGBTQ Community Center.

“Our immediate reaction is sadness, anger, and fear,” said Christopher Allen, president and CEO of Milwaukee LGBTQ+ organization Diverse + Resilient.

“I think about Cashay, all the many stories and things that we’ve shared with each other, how many similarities we had, as far as traumas and things like that, I can’t help but feel if I don’t change my own course, I can be next. And I don’t want to be next,” said Ladi Ananna who works with the Black Rose Initiative, a Wisconsin coalition of Black trans leaders. Ananna said she is even considering detransitioning for her own safety.

“We come together to call an end to any violence against a person targeted because of hate or ignorance,” Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson (D) said at the March 1 vigil. “They all deserve justice and we’ll work to seek it. We must take every reasonable step to protect transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community in Milwaukee.”

Henderson was the third Black transgender woman killed in the city within the past nine months. Last June, 28-year-old Brazil Johnson was shot and killed, reportedly at close range. In September, just days before her 36th birthday, Regina “Maya” Allen was shot and killed near her apartment.

Milwaukee police have charged 33-year-old Cordell M. Howze with first-degree reckless homicide and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in connection with Henderson’s murder. In October, police arrested Clayton Hubbird, 31, in connection with Allen’s death. No arrests have been made in Johnson’s case.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, Henderson is also the sixth transgender or gender nonconforming person to die by homicide so far this year. Last November, the LGBTQ+ rights organization reported that at least 38 transgender and gender nonconforming people were killed in the U.S. in 2022. Black transgender women comprised 63 percent of victims of fatal violence against trans and gender nonconforming people. Additionally, 85 percent of victims were trans women and 85 percent were people of color.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that prior to last year, the city had not seen the murder of a victim identified as a Black trans woman since 2010.

Allen of Diverse + Resilient pointed to the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ laws making their way through statehouses across the country and the increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric on the right as contributing to the rise in violence against transgender individuals.

“It gives that permission to close yourself off from seeing trans people as human beings.”

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