Yesterday, two headlines caught my eye as I scanned the news. The first was about Playboy Mexico putting a transgender model on the cover for the first time in its history. It’s a stunning picture and Victoria Volkova looks beautiful and powerful.
On Instagram the magazine stated “Playboy Mexico is committed to the openness and diversity for which we fight daily in this country.”
Whatever your thoughts of Playboy and the industry it represents, this is a fantastic development.
Sadly, it was overshadowed by another story. The arrest of someone in connection with the brutal slaying of 27 year-old transgender woman Dominique ‘Rem’mie’ Fells. Her death makes unpleasant reading, and I’m sorry to have to repeat it here, but we need to know, and we need to do something about it.
Dominique’s body was found floating in the Schuykill River in Philadelphia on June 9th this year. She had been stabbed multiple times with trauma to her face and head, and both her legs had been severed mid-thigh. The man arrested this week knew the victim and police found convincing evidence for the crime including blood at his home.
I have chills as I write this. Can you imagine the fear and agony this young woman went through the day she died? How could anyone commit such a despicable act?
It is usual in journalism to refer to people in stories with their surname but here, I am going to use her first name because it is important to remember her as a person.
Her name was Dominique. She was a young woman who was living her authentic life as a trans woman and she was murdered.
She is not the first, and won’t be the last. In 2020 it has been reported that 34 transgender or non binary people have been killed in the United States. Most of them were Black or Latinx. In 2019 the American Medical Association declared on-going murders of transgender woman of colour an ‘epidemic of violence.’
It is senseless and horrific to think about. The victims of the violence were killed by partners or other people they knew and sometimes by strangers. There are many factors involved but there is a definite anti-transgender bias involved that is heightened by risks associated with homelessness, poverty and unemployment. Society can be very cruel and dismissive of trans and non binary people and the results can be tragic.
Transgender and non-binary people face discrimination in all countries and by a lack of acceptance by family and society in general.
In America this situation has been exacerbated by a President and political leaders who have made trans issues central to their culture wars. A deliberate strategy has been adopted to dehumanise trans and non-binary people in order to increase turnout at the polls by conservative people and to distract from other nefarious policies and actions.
Over the past few years we have seen pushback around trans issues by people such as JK Rowling and others who are concerned about the changing definitions of gender identity and sexual identity.
I understand that some people have those concerns but there is a greater issue that is more compelling and urgent – vulnerable people are being attacked and killed for simply living their lives and expressing their genuine selves.
All of us need to recognise that there are no sub-categories to being human. We have diversity, but there is only one human race and we all belong to it. I am heartbroken that Dominique and many of her sisters are suffering horribly.
The onus on all of us is to recognise that everyone has a right to exist and live with respect, dignity and peace.
The violence has to stop.
An online petition demanding justice for Dominique has over 460,000 signatures, and the organisers are aiming for 500,000. If you would like to join them, follow this link.