Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Milwaukee Trans Woman “+” Brutally Shot to Death in the Street

Chanel Larkin, FORGE photo

Milwaukee, Wisconsin – A struggle for the assailant’s .357-caliber pistol ended savagely for a Milwaukee trans woman of color on May 7.  Chanel Larkin (née Dana A. Larkin), 26, was shot three times in the head by a man who allegedly picked her up for sex, and offered her $20 to turn a trick.  Authorities contend that Andrew Olacirequi, who was cruising the vicinity for a prostitute, shot Larkin three times in the head when Larkin revealed to him that she was biologically male, according to EDGE Boston. Larkin’s lifeless body was found on the sidewalk along North 23rd Street. Olacirequi was arrested later than night at the scene of the crime when he returned to find a lost cell phone. Law enforcement has charged him with first-degree reckless homicide and use of a deadly weapon.  EDGE reports that he could face up to 65 years in prison for the crimes.  As is so often the situation in transphobic murder cases, law enforcement and media follow the sensational and freakish imaginings of the general public rather than seeking to learn about the real lives lost and the human struggles that trans people face every day of their lives in biased communities.  Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, said to EDGE, “The media matters and phrases like ’cross-dressing prostitute’ are loaded terms playing to a victim-blaming stereotype or a ’transgender panic’ defense,” Silverman explained. “These types of stories play into the cultural stereotype of transgender people somehow committing fraud or trying to trick people, none of which is true.” Michael Munson, Executive Director of FORGE, (For Ourselves: Reworking Gender Expression), has worked tirelessly to express Chanel Larkin’s story to the media in a sensitive and meaningful way, pointing out that Ms. Larkin, who had identified as a woman since her mid-teens, was a vital young trans woman of color who never deserved to die at the hands of transphobic violence.  Munson and FORGE decry the way some mainstream media have mis-characterized Ms. Larkin as “a man posing as a woman.”  She was a trans+ person, according to FORGE standards of address.  “People are much more complex than a set of words and labels,” the FORGE website points out. “‘+’ indicates an expansiveness that words cannot capture, recognizing and welcoming the beautiful diversity within our community.” Chanel Larkin was beloved of her family, especially her siblings and her grandmother.  Over 200 people attended her funeral on May 14, and the trans+ community, as well as the African American, LGBT and entertainment communities are bereaved and deeply affected by her passing.  Ms. Larkin’s story is all-to-familiar on the mean streets of America.  She lived at the crossing point of oppressions: female, trans, black, and poor.  At some point, she resorted to sex work to pay her bills and make a living in a down economy that set the background for the violence she had to risk every day of her too-short life. Speaking to EDGE, Brenda Coley, a staff member at Diverse and Resilient who knew Ms. Larkin, said, “We have to stand up as a [LGBT] community and speak out against this. I hope we’ll see how we’re all really connected and how the problems a person or group of people face are not walled off within that group but permeate through the whole society. None of us are free if some of us are not,” Coley added. “These are not throw-away members of our community. These are precious lives.” Chanel Larkin was not responsible for her death. She fought to live when her alleged assailant pulled his gun on her. She also fought to survive as an authentic person amidst an epidemic of anti-trans violence in a state that has never applied its hate crime statute to any LGBT person, according to activists in Milwaukee. Pressure from trans and LGBT advocates is mounting on the district attorney to designate her murder as a hate crime, and to prosecute her alleged murderer as a hate-killer under the law.  But the ongoing struggle for justice in Milwaukee and around the country will continue to be against poverty, racism, sexism, and prejudice against trans people, whether it comes from the straight or the gay community. Chanel Larkin is beyond harm now. It remains for the living to struggle in her name against the fear and injustice that took her life and the lives of  hundreds like her around the world.

May 21, 2010 - Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, funerals, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Media Issues, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Popular Culture, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, trans-panic defense, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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