The transgender community is mourning the loss of yet another of its members after 26-year-old Brandi Seals was gunned down in Southeast Houston’s Sunnyside neighborhood early Wednesday morning.
According to FOX 26 Houston, Seals was killed around 6 a.m. Neighbors reported hearing about six gunshots, which struck Seals, her car, and a neighbor’s garage.
Nationally known transgender activist and blogger Monica Roberts, who is based in Houston, reported on Seals’ death on her TransGriot blog, taking issue with initial reporting that misgendered and misnamed Seals.
The story alleged that she was engaged in prostitution at the time of her death, ostensibly to get money to pay for her transition-related care.
“[A]s you probably guessed, FOX 26’s John Donnelly horribly botched the reporting in this story,” Roberts wrote. “The initial reporting was so horrible he neglected to get Brandi’s age, or say in the story where her body was found.
“A mere blogger found that out doing the basic 101 level reporting Donnelly failed to do. But he sure had no trouble misgendering Brandi or shadily injecting prostitution into it.”
Houston police further misgendered Seals by describing her as “a man in women’s clothing.”
Seals’ aunt, Maria Cheeks, described her as “loving” and a “beautiful person.”
“Whoever took his life, they have to answer,” Cheeks told FOX 26. “Maybe the police might not can get you, but you will have to answer to one person. And that’s the higher power of God. You will have to answer to him.”
In her blog post, Roberts noted that the local Houston community had planned two vigils in Seals’ honor. One took place at the spot where Seals was killed on Thursday night, and the second is scheduled to take place at Houston City Hall at 5 p.m. on Friday.
Police are still searching for Seals’ killer. They are encouraging anyone with information that leads to an arrest and conviction of the killer to call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 713-222-TIPS (8477).
The Human Rights Campaign, which has been keeping a tally of all transgender deaths due to violence, reports that Seals was the 28th transgender or non-binary person killed in 2017, surpassing the number of transgender deaths for all of 2016.
“It seems like every day of 2017 the trans community wakes up to a new heartbreak,” Isa Noyola, the deputy director of Transgender Law Center, said in a statement. “We mourn the loss of this beautiful young woman, and of the far too many others who have been taken from us this year.
“Mourning, however, is not enough, nor is advocating for trans rights without confronting the deep racism and anti-blackness that define life in this country. This violence will continue until our country values and respects the lives of trans women of color, and specifically Black trans women. That looks like ensuring access to health care and employment, so our communities have options for survival beyond the streets.
“It means decriminalizing sex work so that people can earn a living safely. It means an end to policy and legislation that would label us as criminals simply for who we are, like the bill that almost passed this summer in Texas, where Brandi was murdered,” Noyola added, referring to Texas’ anti-transgender “bathroom bill.”
“The solution to violence is not harsher sentences for each individual who murders us, but rather to value our lives in the first place,” she concluded.
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