Columbus, Ohio police are investigating the death of 28-year-old Rae’Lynn Thomas, who was shot and killed by her mother’s ex-boyfriend James Allen Byrd, WBNS News reported. According to her mother Renee Thomas, Byrd, who still lived in the family home, was extremely transphobic and often referred to Rae’Lynn as “the devil,” a word he used repeatedly when he shot and beat Rae’Lynn to death.
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“He was in the bedroom and he just came around the corner and shot my [daughter],” Renee told WBNS.
Watching her daughter die before her eyes, she said that Rae’Lynn’s last words were, “‘Mom, please please don’t leave me. Mom, I’m dying. Mom, I love you. Tell my sisters and my brother I love them. Tell my family I love them. Mom, I’m dying, I’m dying, please don’t leave me.’”
Rae’Lynn, who was a performer and “fashionista,” transitioned from male to female a decade ago, an act that her family widely accepted, WBNS noted. Her aunt Shannon Thomas said the family is devastated.
“[Byrd] took a light away from all of us that we can’t get back. And he needs to pay. He needs to pay,” she stressed.
And while the family is calling Rae’Lynn’s death a hate crime, the Columbus police are not investigating it as such. However, Byrd was charged with murder and is currently being held on a $2 million bond.
Sadly, murders like Rae’Lynn’s are not new or rare when it comes to transgender women.
According to recent report from New York City’s Anti-Violence Project, of the 24 reported hate violence homicides of LGBTQ people in 2015, 67 percent were transgender or gender nonconforming. And just this year alone, Rae’Lynn marks the 19th documented killing of a trans woman in the U.S., the second in Ohio in the past two weeks, The Advocate wrote. In addition, on July 30, Skye Mockabee was found murdered on a Cleveland sidewalk in Cleveland; on Monday, 36-year-old Erykah Tijerina, was found dead in her El Paso, Texas apartment; Dee Whigham was killed in Biloxi in late July; and Deeniquia Dodds was shot in her D.C. home on July 4.
It’s also important to stress that trans of women of color bear the brunt of this type of violence.
Over 90 percent of transgender people murdered in the United States this year have been people of color with 70 percent have been Black, the HRC notes. Not to mention, being Black and trans in in America can also means facing alarmingly high levels of systematic discrimination, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, suicide, sexual assault, HIV infection and incarceration.
So if it’s clear that Black transgender folks are caught in the crosshairs of the intersection of race, sexism, transphobia, violence and overpolicing, what are we as a community going to do about it If we can stand up for Philando, Sandra and Alton, why can’t we do the same for our trans sisters and brothers?
Our silence equals their death.