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Diamond Williams is described as someone who had a big personality and even bigger heart.

She was so full of life. She was funny and we used to laugh. And I remember just acting silly with her and I just miss her because we had a lot of great times.

She was a very loving, caring, and creative person. We were family. We were like sisters and she loved her sisters. No one should ever have to die the way she died.

--Rachel Rose

Williams, 31, was killed last week after having sexual relations with Charles Sargent, 43.  Sargent allegedly dismembered her in his apartment and then dumped her body parts in a field in North Philadelphia.
I don’t care if he knew or he didn’t know.  Nobody deserves to die like that.  That’s someone’s life that (you) just brutally murdered and dismembered and threw her parts in a field.

--Rose

Police say Sargent brought Williams to his home and after having sex, used a screwdriver and a hatchet to dismember Williams.  As he was in that act, his girlfriend arrived on the scene.  The allegedly told her what he had done and threatened her if she told anyone.

This is going to be you next.  You and your children.

--Sargent

The woman reported Sargent to the police.  Sargent had prior convictions for rape and assault.
You know, every time a transgender or gay person is murdered its overlooked, and no one cares. And I promised I wouldn't cry but I feel like people think, oh, it’s another tranny, who cares.  Oh it’s another gay person, who cares.  But I pray for equality.  I pray that we have the same rights and respect that everyone else has.

--Rachel Rose

There was a vigil for Williams at Love Park in the City Center on Tuesday.  Director of LGBT Affairs Gloria Casarez was in attendance.
Less than a year ago at our LGBT community center, we gathered for Kyra Kruz, who was murdered.  Her murderer is still out there.  Two years before Kyra, we gathered right here at Love Park for Stacey Blahnik who was murdered.  Her murderer is still out there.  And almost 11 years ago, we gathered for Nizah Morris who was murdered.  Her murderer is still out there.  Today we’re gathered for Diamond who was brutally murdered over the weekend.

The only bright spot in this story is that her murderer has been captured.  Her murderer will see justice.  And I pledge that we will keep attention on Diamond’s brutal murder.  We will keep attention on this case for Diamond, for Kyra, for Nizah, for Stacey and all of us who have experienced violence because of who we are.

--Casarez

The media ignore us, and when they don't, they disrespect and misrepresent us.  Society views us as disposable, expendable.

I didn't totally disagree.  But, as I stood in the crowd listening to friends and advocates mourn Diamond Woods, I wondered: If we can't even manage to care about the deaths of people we should be able to relate to - children - what chance do people often viewed as spectacles and freaks have at getting our attention, let alone our sympathy?

To the transgender community that gathered Tuesday at LOVE Park, Diamond was a gregarious and generous friend who struggled with the same issues as many of them.  They had come out on the other side.  Diamond wasn't so lucky.

But - and forgive my bluntness - to most of the world, she was just some trick-turning, drug-taking tranny.  It's cruel and heartless and speaks more to that ongoing conversation we need to have about whose lives we value and whose we don't.

--Helen Ubinas, Daily News

Rose met Williams 16 years ago.  She said Diamond had a troubled past.
As the years went by, we both started to go through our transition and she began to get on drugs.  She pretty much just struggled with the struggles that transgender women and men face every day, being discriminated against, being scrutinized, it’s hard to find a job.  Not being accepted in society the way that she wanted to probably drove her deeper into her addiction and working in the sex industry.

--Rachel Rose

Cassie Hart is another longtime friend of Williams.  She recounted the expense of medical treatment for transpeople and its role in driving some to prostitution because they perceive nowhere else to turn.
I mean it’s hard.  We want to live a lifestyle that you need a phenomenal job to live.  If you don’t have a phenomenal job, it leaves you an option to do what, work in a sex workers union.  The sex industry, we fool ourselves into believing it’s not unsafe.  We know that there are safety issues though.

It’s scary, but you tune it out.  If you do it long enough you’ll begin to not even know who the client is.  You see them, but you don’t see them because it’s all about the financial gain.  You don’t know them, they call you on the phone and you don’t know which way it’s gonna go.  You pray that it goes well; you hope that it’s just about the business aspect but as you see it doesn’t always go that way.

--Hart

According to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project by Transgender Europe, there were 1123 reported murders of transpeople in 57 countries over the past 5 years.  Sixty-nine of those murders were in the United States.

The vigil was co-organized by the Mazzoni Center.  The Center host a new Trans* Wellness Project which has the intent of addressing the health needs of transgender men and women.

Basically what we’re setting out to be is a one-stop-shop for all Trans needs, be it hormones, medical attention, etc.  We offer a free clinic on the first and third Friday every month, which requires no insurance.  Trans people need the same care that everyone else needs.

It is true on a large scale that because of discrimination that we face, that we are forced into sex work.  So we do go out to these areas where sex workers are, we pass out condoms, and we give them literature to let them know of the resources we have.   If they’re trying hard to get out of that and they need the name change and they need housing, we want them to know that we’re here to help.

--Deja Alvarez, Mazzoni Center

We will fight.  We will fight because Diamond, Kyra, Stacey and Nizah can’t fight.  We’ve done a lot of work here in Philadelphia on LGBT issues, and I’m proud to be a part of these changes in law, policies, and protections; we still have work to do.  But no number of laws, policies or protections is going to keep you safe in a dangerous situation.  We can’t be lulled into a false sense of security.

--Casarez


I don’t want them to feel like it’s just another tranny that was killed, no one cares about it.  She had a family; she had friends.

--Rose

What we want people to know is that we’re a part of the greater community at large..  It’s time for everybody to embrace everybody.

--Dionne Stallworth

Sargent has been charged with murder, possession of an instrument of crime, abuse of a corpse and making terroristic threats.

Aamina Morrison was at the rally.  She said she nearly died at the hands of the same man.  At the time, she was doing what Williams and so many others have been forced to do:  sell their bodies to survive.

I hadn't seen that man in years.  But as soon as I saw his picture and looked in his eyes . . . I knew.  I knew that he did it, and I knew what he was capable of, and I knew that it was the same guy that I almost lost my life to about six or seven years ago.

My story could have ended there.  But it didn't.

--Aamina Morrison, co-director of the Trans-health Information Project

Originally posted to TransAction on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 04:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Philly Kos and DKos Pennsylvania.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm really hoping this chopping thing... (83+ / 0-)

    ...will not become a trend.

    But perhaps it already has:

    On July 22 a seventeen-year-old transgirl was dancing with a guy at a party in St. James, Jamaica when a woman reportedly told other party-goers that she recognized the transgirl as a male.  The teen was grabbed and groped in order to determine if she had a penis.

    Some of the patrons reportedly set up on the teen, and chopped and stabbed him [sic] to death.  His [sic] body was then dumped in bushes along the Orange Main Road.

    --Link

    Same-gender sexual activity in Jamaica is legal for women, but a crime for men, a crime which can bring up to 10 years in prison at hard labor.
    In 2012, Jamaica elected progressive leader Portia Simpson-Miller as prime minister.  She promised to overturn Jamaica’s sodomy law passed in the 19th century, but she apparently backed down after enormous pressure from religious leaders.
    Nobody tried to defend the victim from the mob.
    J-FLAG notes with deep concern the recent mob killing of Dwayne Jones, a teenager in St James who is gender non-conforming… We encourage persons in the Irwin community of St. James to support the police with any information that could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators.

    Tolerance underpins democracy.  Tolerance protects justice.  Tolerance promotes harmony.

    --Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays

  •  I think that there are those who find (25+ / 0-)

    transgender people the most threatening of all -- even more threatening than gay people. And they're also seen as the ultimate victim -- the kind of kids bullies love to harass because they're different.
    Maybe what's threatening is the idea that a human being can choose to be male or female or someone who is gender-free rather than accepting both what they're born with and what so much of society expects.
    I've found that getting to know some of my daughter's friends who are not transgender per se, but do reject gender norms, has been both fascinating and liberating. But rigid people find "liberating" a scary idea.
    This was a particularly awful murder and it sounds like the murderer is the sort of person we want locked up for a very very long time (unlike so many people in prison for drug possession).

    While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

    by Tamar on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 04:17:21 PM PDT

  •  Ashley Sinclair (14+ / 0-)

    http://www.cfnews13.com/...

    Her murder in Orlando is still unsolved. Hoping the killer can't help bragging sometime to the right person.

    Sunday mornings are more beautiful without Meet the Press.

    by deben on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 04:43:04 PM PDT

  •  The unvirtuous cycle (10+ / 0-)
    I mean it’s hard.  We want to live a lifestyle that you need a phenomenal job to live.
    It shouldn't be this hard.

    I do not demand tolerance, I demand equal rights. --Anna Grodzka

    by VeggiElaine on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 05:21:14 PM PDT

  •  At least they got the guy, unlike most murders (11+ / 0-)

    in Philly.

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 05:47:59 PM PDT

  •  may she rest in peace (7+ / 0-)

    Diamond struggled in life and was horribly mistreated, perhaps even tortured, in death.  May she rest in peace, beyond the reach now of all the hate and cruelty she had to endure.

    Her death will not be in vain as robyn and others make sure her story is told.  May the outrage and disgust about the way she was treated be turned into activism!

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 08:47:52 PM PDT

  •  Thanks Robyn (5+ / 0-)

    Although this will definitely make it harder for me to fall asleep tonight.

    I'm glad the bastard who did this is in custody.

    I'm obviously mad as hell about this brutal murder -

    but what I'm really mad about is the fact that Diamond (felt like she) had no other choice than to work in the sex industry. It makes me mad as hell that you have to be financially pretty well off to surgically transition. It makes me mad as hell that it's so hard to find work as a gender nonconforming person (I'm in that boat right now and realizing that legal protections don't help you much if you don't get hired in the first place because you don't conform to the binary).

    Thanks for writing about this. It makes me so angry I wouldn't be able to pull myself together to do it. And you do it again and again.

    Maybe just maybe our foremothers and our forefathers came to this land in different ships. But we're all in the same boat now. - John Lewis

    by bluesheep on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 11:13:02 PM PDT

  •  I rarely know what to write (4+ / 0-)

    when I read about tragedies like this.

    I kinda feel that both people's need for reassignment surgery and the horrific violence inflicted on trans-people every day stem from the same intolerant, binary gender idiocy built into our culture. If it was just considered normal to not fit into the narrow ends of the spectrum more people would be comfortable in their own skins.

    In a world where people still say things like "I'd kill my kids if I found out they were gay" I can't imagine how far we still have to go and what needs to happen to people like that to convince them that such ideas are abominations and that they themselves have become inhuman. Tolerance is so simple. Acceptance is not so hard.

    I think seeing a Robyn diary on the rec list again is sign of hope. Thanks for keeping this at the front of my placid, privileged mind.

    •  Hi Marko! (5+ / 0-)

      I can say from personal experience that my need for surgery is really based on a disconnect with my body. It's just wrong the way it is, and it really, really bothers me and always has. Puberty was incredibly traumatizing.

      That being said, having less "binary gender idiocy" (btw I love that phrase!) would make my life easier and happier because I wouldn't have to do things like explain at the shoe store that I don't want women's shoes, or have people who see me from the neck up stare and try to figure out "what" I am.

      Acceptance is indeed not so hard. And usually very rewarding because you open yourself to some amazing people :-)

      Maybe just maybe our foremothers and our forefathers came to this land in different ships. But we're all in the same boat now. - John Lewis

      by bluesheep on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 11:24:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hiya ex-neighbor! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rserven

        I still wonder why that disconnect with your body took place. It doesn't seem to me that that sort of thing should be able to happen if we weren't handed our gender roles like little pink or blue hats before we even take our first breaths.

        Our broken society doesn't make enough little yellow hats and it makes far too many assumptions about how people should act and think based on superficial fluff like genitalia. You and I and every one of us were subjected to the indoctrination of gender role stereotypes from countless sources all our lives. And when the truth of who we are inside doesn't match what we appear to be on the outside then all the gender role garbage strapped to our genitalia can become too much of a burden.

        I think about transitional surgery similarly to the way I think about oriental people getting their eyelids surgically altered to conform to some foreign and artificial concept of beauty. I cannot condemn the act itself because above all else I believe that your body is yours to do with what you want to-- but I see the need to surgically alter healthy flesh as a symptom of a deep, societal disease that forces us to conform to narrow, unnatural standards.

        There are too many variables of physical sexual characteristics, too many sexual orientations and far too many roles attached to gender for anyone to fit neatly into just two categories labelled merely "male" or "female".

        I'm also bothered by piercing and tattoos though. I see it all as mutilating healthy flesh. But I guess we all do what we must to feel better about this body of ours that the world sees and the world judges. We're all just trying to fit in, one way or another.

        I shaved my face yesterday. In a way, that too is just an act of conformity. And yet, I suffer and conform and feel better about myself.

        Not really analogous to the changes of reassignment surgery but I've hopefully pointed out that in some small way I see my own hypocrisy.

        That said, I should perhaps add that I think that reassignment surgery is something that should be paid for by health insurance. I think of it as just another cost of living in an intolerant society.  

    •  I was trying (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rserven, Marko the Werelynx

      to make it through without comments.  

      I chose GRS for myself based on my best understanding of my own medical and personal options going forward.  My new stuff works as well as my old stuff.  It was in no sense a mutilation or disfigurement.  I am pleased with the result, and I chose the risks consciously and with forethought.  I also earned and paid every dime of it, if it matters.

      While "down with the binary" is a good thing to apply to society, when you apply it to my choices, or the choices of other trans people, you are effectively writing them off as misguided fools reinforcing a bad system. To me, your framing does not help our civil rights, our individual treatment of each other within the queer community, or our goal to protect people from things like the horror of this diary.

      ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

      by jessical on Sat Jul 27, 2013 at 09:02:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rserven, jessical

        I'm not writing anybody off and I have real world friends that I'd known before they transitioned. I did not question their decision.  I do not question your decision.

        I understand that there are legitimate reasons for cutting into a healthy body. All of them still leave scars.

        A certain famous actress is sleeping better knowing that her breast tissue won't be around to almost certainly develop cancerous tumors.

        Even healthy tissue can fester in your thoughts.

        Nobody I know with a tattoo considers that "mutilation" either. What we each consider "normal" is a matter of perspective. My perspective is an extreme one. I call a lot of things "mutilation" that the vast majority of people call "normal". I understand that I'm an opinionated twit that babbles on and on and on until quite gentle people tell me to just shut up already.

        So, on I go ...

        People do what they have to in this world to survive and if you wake up every morning thinking that something is wrong with your own body then what can you do about it? Turns out that changing the body is easier than changing the mind. Especially when there's a collective mind and all that binary baggage demanding that something is wrong with us.

        We do the best we can with what we have.

        This is a subject better suited to talk over a tavern table but please know that the last thing I'd do is condemn anyone for the choices they've made to be able to live with their own bodies or to simply survive in our broken society. A person's own body is sacrosanct. This is also why I fully support the right to abortion.

        I do still however believe that if our society was truly tolerant and accepting that no-one would grow up feeling like a stranger in their own body.

        I grew up listening to Marlo Thomas records.  

        I've talked with people about the relief they felt after they finally began their surgeries and the wonder they felt at how each procedure changed the way they felt about themselves.

        That's a good thing!

        The operations helped. That's all that matters.

        It may seem from my blitherings above that I'm implying that trans-people are "misguided fools reinforcing a bad system" but folks that know me better understand that my scorn is entirely reserved for the bad system. Society needs to recognize trans-people as simply "people" and accept all people in whatever gender or sex role they choose for themselves. That's civil rights. That's "... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Sex and gender, like race-- in an ideal world shouldn't matter. We don't live in that world. In our world most public toilets are still segregated behind a binary set of doors.

        I'm glad that medical science has developed to the point where people who were previously torn apart inside can be made to feel whole again.

        That's healing.

        Can I still see that as "mutilation"-- um, yes (I know, I know-- I'm crazy. You should hear me rant about make-up and hair dye sometime. Or maybe you shouldn't-- it's not pleasant). Can I still fight for your right to do it? Can I still fight for the right of every person to make choices about their own sex and their own gender?

        Yes.

        •  Well (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Marko the Werelynx, rserven

          I think we all nuance our places in this differently.

          I also think words matter, and when the private and public use of a word are different "for people who know me", then there are...at least...a few complicated things at play.  As you say, everyone is different, and we all have personal reasons for how we frame stuff, to ourselves and the world.  In my life, there are places I do not go, in my very queer neighborhood, because the wink-wink nudge-nudge discourse would find your framing very acceptable and forward thinking, and my very existence grotesque. You seem like a very nice person, and I have no way to really know where you are coming from -- so, well, just informing you.  Intent aside, it all fits into a very nice narrative and folks like me are on the outside of it.

          But y'know, I might argue that hacking the phenotypic expression of my genome -- hormones and surgery both -- is it's own deconstruction of the binary.  And yes, of course...everything leaves scars.  But I also think that surgical change is part of a very old way to be trans which has existed in many human cultures, albeit without the very nice features of present medical technologies.  This not something barely understandable I just did to be happy because the unhappy was so big -- it is a way to be human.  

          Anyway.

          ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

          by jessical on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 04:12:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You are so, so right. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jessical, rserven

            I should be more sensitive about my use of language. Words do indeed matter. They matter a great deal. Like the joy of pronouns that trans-people have to deal with from people who knew them before they transitioned and from the insensitive types who refuse to accept trans-people as they wish to be identified.

            Friends of mine just had their little boy's ears pinned back. He starts first grade next year and his ears stuck out from his head like handles on a trophy cup. A little pain and what I would call mutilation and he can go to school and not be teased about his ears. His parents know they did the right thing because they lived through the cruelty of their own classmates. A bit of mutilation is a small price to pay for normality.

            I couldn't have done that for my own children. And that also gives me pause to consider my odd extremism. It doesn't seem to help anyone and it sure hasn't changed the world.

            I liked this bit particularly:

            I might argue that hacking the phenotypic expression of my genome -- hormones and surgery both -- is it's own deconstruction of the binary.
            It made me imagine that you were bridging the binary. Or maybe just jumping clean over the gap between the sides as if to say that the gap itself was nothing.

            I do hope medical science continues to make advances in reassignment surgery. I think it's still much too primitive. I was thinking that with current advances in creating tissue and stem cell manipulation that I may just see surgery so complete that further hormone therapy would be redundant. They're already working on growing new internal organs from stem cells-- why not ovaries and testes?

            Thanks for taking the time to engage with me on this personal and complicated subject. I know we've bumped elbows in other threads around here. Henceforth I'll be more careful about my flippant misuse of words like "mutilation" -- at least, without my overbearing tonnage of nuanced explanation I'm just blundering about stomping on toes.

            I always was a clumsy dancer.

            •  Something I've said before... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Marko the Werelynx, rserven

              ...(sorry Robyn)...I think that trans folks hear over and over "you aren't real" and largely as a result of that, there are some very defensive frames on being trans out there.  In my case, I'm pretty f*ing genderqueer, overall...it's just, I'm genderqueer with all the medical stuff.  We're all different, to spite our commonalities.  I think that trans women who go through "transition" as such often end up with some heavy perspectives on the binary generally.  Some embrace it and some totally flip it off.  For myself -- like most women I think, trans and not --I have an ambiguous relationship with the ways our culture handles gender.  It's not static and it's seldom straightforward.  I work hard to keep it from being too baggage laden, and only partially succeed.  And, again, am not unique

              But, y'know, to spite my many shortcomings in life, I have the luxury to contemplate such things from behind my macbook, while getting ready for a Sunday morning business meeting.  Young transwomen of color generally don't, and the intersection of race, class and gender seems quite deadly.  It all counts, all this stuff, but...I think we need jobs, and we need access to education, and we need to do a lot better at reaching from queer communities across barriers of race and class.  In the end, I actually don't care that much how badly I kinda squick someone, if we've got their vote and support for ENDA and job training and housing discrimination issues.

              You dance fine, hon.

              ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

              by jessical on Sun Jul 28, 2013 at 06:06:00 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

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