Owen Meehan, a trans* person living in New York City, and Ken Myers report on the response to the murder of a 21-year-old trans* woman of color in Harlem.
HUNDREDS GATHERED at Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem on August 27 for a vigil to mourn the death of Islan Nettles, a trans*gender woman of color. The event, organized primarily by the New York Anti-Violence Project (AVP) and Harlem Pride, came 10 days after a man beat and hurled trans*phobic slurs at Nettles just one block away from the police station.
Nettles was transported to Harlem Hospital where she slipped into a coma and survived on life support for a short time, but was ultimately declared brain dead. She was 21 years old.
Speakers at the vigil included members of Islan Nettles’ family—among them, her mother, sister and uncle—local pastors and ministers, two singers, local LGBTQ community leaders, and trans*gender actress Laverne Cox.
Many of the speakers called for peace, reflection, respect and an understanding that the gathering wasn’t a “political” rally, but a vigil. Notably, only two of the speakers were trans*gender—actress Laverne Cox and the AVP’s Chanel Lopez—and many of the speakers (including some family members) referred to Islan by the wrong gender or used her old name, which some vigil attendees attempted to correct. Cox made note of this in her speech, saying, “I hear lots of people out there who are upset because she’s been called by the wrong pronoun. It hurts me too.”