Bravery Cut Short: Islan Nettles Dead After Attack

8.23.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

A 21-year-old trans woman is dead in a city that celebrates diversity.

Less than 48 hours ago I was walking around Mexico City with a cross-dressing entertainer named Zemmoa. I don't use the word transgender here because she doesn't identify as transgender, but observers on the street don't know that, nor do the majority of people make a distinction between cross-dressing and transgender, mostly because they don't understand there is a difference.

Regardless, no one batted an eyelash at Zemmoa, a woman who's at least 6'1" and in no way a wallflower: she was wearing a bright, colorfully striped oversized cardigan and purple eyeshadow. She was so sure of herself and confident that I myself felt empowered just by being near her. It was something of a high, but one that was greatly diminished upon my return to the States last night and this news story: doctors took a 21-year old transgender woman named Islan Nettles off of life support after she was attacked by an apparently hateful man.

According to police reports and eyewitnesses, Nettles and her friends, a group of transgender women, were hanging out at 148th Street and Eighth Avenue when the unidentified suspect, a 20-year-old, began yelling anti-gay and anti-trans slurs and punching them. As the women scattered, the man allegedly targeted Nettles, beating her so badly that she eventually fell into a coma and was declared brain dead, says NY1. The crime is being investigated as a hate crime.

The Nettles attack happened last week, August 17, at around 6:45pm, before sunset, in public, and in a city whose residents often celebrate its diversity. Just like Mark Carson's murder, the recent attack in Chelsea, and other recent anti-LGBT attacks in the Big Apple, Nettles's attack and death are more than just murder. They're a crying shame that besmirch this entire city and country. And Nettles is not alone.

According to a 2012 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, anti-trans violence rose 32.1% from 2011 to 2012, and trans women of color are most often the targets. This report only covers 18 states, though, so one can only imagine the disgraceful incidents that go unreported. Let's hope Nettles's death helps change that, because the prevalence of anti-trans crime isn't only disgusting and inhuman, it' un-American.

(Nettles's LinkedIn image via DNAInfo)

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