In Depth

Dallas deaths: why are black transgender women being killed?

Police call in FBI amid fears of serial attacker

Police in Dallas are investigating the death of the third black transgender woman to be killed in the Texas city in less than a year.

The body of Chynal Lindsey, 26, was pulled out of a lake in northeast Dallas by a local conservation officer on Saturday. Investigators say the body showed “obvious signs of homicidal violence”.

The discovery follows the deaths of Muhlaysia Booker, 23, and Brittany White, 29, “raising the spectre of a spree of violence targeting one of the most marginalised communities in the city”, says The New York Times.

What happened to these women?

White, 29, was found shot dead in her parked car in the southeast of the city in October. Just over half a year later, in May, Booker was found dead from a fatal gunshot wound in a street just a ten-minute drive from where Lindsey’s body was discovered last week.

A few weeks prior to Booker’s death, she had been filmed being assaulted by a mob, with the resulting video footage going viral around the world. Police have made no connection between the earlier attack and her death, however.

Another transgender woman, who has not been named, was stabbed multiple times in Dallas in April but survived the attack.

And in July 2017, the remains of a trans woman were discovered in a field in the region, although the cause of death was undetermined.

That discovery came two years after another member of Dallas’ black trans community, 22-year-old Shade Schuler, was found dead in a field in what is classified as an unsolved murder.

Are the deaths connected?

Police have asked the FBI for help amid “questions about the possibility of a serial attacker”, reports The Guardian.

Asked if the string of deaths could be the work of a single person, Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall said: “Right now we don’t have the evidence to substantiate that.”

However, she warned residents to be vigilant.

Last month, before Lindsey was found dead, police acknowledged there were similarities between the previous attacks. Some of the victims had been in the same neighbourhood shortly before they were assaulted, police said.

”In addition, it has also been determined that two of the victims got into a vehicle with someone. In another case, the victim allowed someone into their vehicle,” police added in a statement.

“People are afraid,” said Lou Weaver, the transgender programmes coordinator for Equality Texas. “We’re wondering if someone is targeting the transgender community.”

Dallas has had a “vibrant” LGBTQ+ community since at least the 1970s, but Booker’s friends say progress has not extended to black transgender women like themselves, Vice News reports. 

One friend told the current affairs channel that even Oak Lawn, the city’s historic “gaybourhood, has been gentrified beyond recognition… It makes us feel like we’re not wanted anywhere.”

Are the attacks part of a wider trend?

“Figures show that transgender people, particularly trans women of colour, are disproportionately likely to be the victims of violent attacks in the US,” says the BBC.

At least 26 trans people were killed across the US in 2018, most of whom were African-American, according to LGBTQ rights group Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

“We see this phenomenon far too often, that violence will bubble up in a specific area or state each year,” says HCR press secretary Sarah McBride. “There are concerns around contagion or a copycat effect each time a community witnesses a significant number of cases of anti-transgender violence.”

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