In response to an investigation by ProPublica into the unsolved murders of three black trans women in Jacksonville, Florida, Laverne Cox has opened up about her experience with suicidal ideation to illustrate a larger point about the importance of not being misgendered. On Twitter, Cox shared a note Monday explaining that “many years ago when I was contemplating suicide,” she planned to leave several notes behind with her name and preferred pronouns. “Being misgendered and deadnamed in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult,” she wrote.
The ProPublica report found that, in official documents, investigating authorities “repeatedly” misgendered and deadnamed the victims. It casts a light on the murders of Celine Walker, Antonia “Antash’a” English, and Cathalina James, and how the police’s insensitivity has ruptured their standing with the local transgender community. Activists also say that the police’s mishandling of their identities may have slowed down investigations, since trans victims’ friends or acquaintances may only know them by their preferred names and pronouns.
The problem is hardly limited to Jacksonville, though. ProPublica spoke to authorities in Baton Rouge, where a trans woman was shot to death and referred to as a “transvestite” by police. A spokesperson for the local police said the department has no official policy on identifying trans victims and police may default to victims’ assigned sex. He added, “if it’s a male, it’s a male.”
Cox’s response to the report is mixed with gratitude and sadness:
“As I read this report from ProPublica I sobbed and wept for all the trans people who have been murdered and those experiencing direct, cultural and structural violence. I wept because I haven’t been allowing myself to. I wept for all of the violence I have experienced in my own life.
I am angered, saddened and enraged that the police in Jacksonville, Flroida and other jurisdictions don’t have policies in place to respect the gender identities of trans folks when they have been MURDERED. Injustice on top of injustice!”