Activists rally at City Hall to protest violence against transgender people 

click to enlarge Members of the LGBT community and its supporters gathered at City Hall on Tuesday to hold a die-in and bring attention to the violence that affects them. - GABRIELLE LURIE/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Gabrielle Lurie/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Members of the LGBT community and its supporters gathered at City Hall on Tuesday to hold a die-in and bring attention to the violence that affects them.

When Taja DeJesus' body was found on the steps of a building near the corner of McKinnon Avenue and Lane Street in the Bayview on Feb. 1, her stabbing death was reported as just one more statistic in an already bloody start to the year.

Little to nothing was mentioned about her gender or whether that had any role to play in her violent end.

But her death and her gender were the rallying cry of a gathering Tuesday afternoon that focused on the ongoing violence targeting transgender people in The City and elsewhere.

More than 200 people clogged the steps of City Hall calling out the famously gay- and lesbian-friendly city for falling behind when it comes to aiding transgender people who are too often targets of violence.

"Remember my face," Vanessa Rochelle, 24, said to those gathered outside of City Hall. Statistically speaking, she continued, she has more of a chance of dying violently in the next 10 years than almost anyone.

"I wonder if my name will make that list?" she asked, alluding to the six transgender people who have died violently so far this year across the nation.

Other speakers pointed to the perception of San Francisco as a queer-friendly city that nonetheless is failing transgender people.

"Just because this is a gay city doesn't mean you're welcome," said Sadaisha Shimmers, a 30-year-old transgender woman who spoke at the rally.

Danielle Castro, who knew DeJesus, agreed. The City and its leaders, she said, need to stand alongside transgender people who are often not made to feel welcome here.

"Why are we treated as second-class citizens?" she asked.

The angry voices at the gathering — it ended inside City Hall when protesters marched to the Board of Supervisors meeting — came the same day that a report was released noting just how unsafe LGBT people feel in San Francisco.

The Human Rights Commission, in partnership with the San Francisco LGBT Center and Learning for Action, conducted what they called a violence prevention needs assessment.

The results were less heartening than might be expected for a city that proudly waves its multicolor gay flag.

The report found that the local LGBT community still faces high rates of violence and that "violence patterns and disparities within the LGBTQ population suggest that the root causes underlying experiences with violence include racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination."

The report also noted that The City's perceived LGBT friendliness is not enough to keep people safe and can act as a systemic barrier to meeting the needs of people in danger of violence.

Data was used from four sources, including the LGBTQ Community Safety Survey, which surveyed more than 400 people — 77 percent of whom live in San Francisco. The rest of the respondents either work, get services or spend time in The City. The report also used information from in-depth interviews with 14 LGBT individuals, a focus group, as well as with local service providers and officials.

Meanwhile, the case of DeJesus remains open and unsolved.

No one has been arrested in connection with the killing, but police said last week a possible suspect in the killing was found dead of an apparent suicide.

Pamela Linda DeJesus, Taja's mother, said her daughter moved to San Francisco roughly a decade ago so she could be in a place where she is accepted and safe.

A motive for the killing has not been divulged by police, who are not calling the slaying a hate crime.

Safety stats

The results of a violence-prevention needs assessment survey involving local LGBT people

68% of LGBT respondents who have experienced physical violence

48% who have experienced sexual violence

81% who have experienced harassment

33% More than one-third have experienced all three

44% who did not report physical violence

47% who did not report sexual violence

62% who did not report harassment

36% who don't believe the police would help if such events were reported

60% of Latina transgender respondents who feel unsafe walking during the day

12% of LGBT respondents who feel safe overall

Source: Human Rights Commission, in partnership with the San Francisco LGBT Center and Learning for Action

About The Author

Jonah Owen Lamb

Jonah Owen Lamb

Born and raised on a houseboat in Sausalito, Lamb has written for newspapers in New York City, Utah and the San Joaquin Valley. He was most recently an editor at the San Luis Obispo Tribune for nearly three years. He has written for The S.F. Examiner since 2013 and covers criminal justice and planning.
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