Today Transgender Law Center celebrates the release from prison of CeCe McDonald. CeCe, a young African-American transgender woman, was sentenced to 41 months in a men’s prison in June of 2012, after stabbing the man who attacked her during a racist and transphobic hate crime in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ms. McDonald was the only person arrested. She was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder despite the overwhelming evidence that she was simply defending herself from a transphobic attack. None of her attackers were charged. Transgender Law Center stands in solidarity with Ms. McDonald and her supporters in celebrating the end to her unjust incarceration.
Ms. McDonald’s experience is not uncommon. Every day across the United States transgender women of color face severe violence, discrimination, and harassment. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 63% of transgender people had experienced at least one serious act of discrimination (including losing a job, eviction, bullying that made them drop out of school, assault, homelessness, or incarceration), with 23% having experienced more than three of the above. The combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural racism was particularly devastating, and transgender people of color fared worse than white participants across the board. Among transgender people of color, 90% reported harassment at work and 53% in places of public accommodation, and 22% had experienced assault in these places just because of who they are. 38% of respondents of color also reported experiencing police harassment due to bias.
The current criminal prosecution of 16-year-old transgender high school student Jewlyes Gutierrez after she defended herself against ongoing bullying at Hercules High School in Martinez, California is only the latest example of this type of injustice. As in Ms. McDonald’s case, following a fight with her bullies, Ms. Gutierrez appears to be the sole individual facing criminal charges. Transgender Law Center has called on the West Contra Costa County District Attorney to drop the charges against Ms. Gutierrez and instead find other, more appropriate ways to address and prevent violence at that school.
“We send CeCe our warmest well-wishes on this joyous day,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director. “It’s time to stop re-victimizing young transgender women of color by pushing them into the criminal system. We all need to come together and find ways to prevent the extraordinarily high rates of violence and discrimination against trans women so that there will be no more cases like CeCe’s.”