Who Cares About Islan Nettles?

3.4.2014

By Tim Murphy

What happens when a young trans woman is murdered in the street, opposite a police station?

But something else was clear at the January rally. In New York City — as well as in such cities as Los Angeles and Bakersfield, Calif., where sister rallies for Nettles were occurring that day — a large and identifiable activist community of transgender women of color, many of them with highly respected, visible posts within nonprofits, had emerged.

The crowd went respectfully silent when St. Claire — a busty, brassy, blondmaned longtime survivor of New York’s mean streets for trans women — took the big red megaphone. “I’ve lived through more murders than you can count,” she told the crowd.

She paused, before roaring: “Join organizations! Singly, they’re not listening to a word we’re trying to say. You’re still looked at as disposable, people. Garbage. And the only way to change that is to band together and have your voices heard.”

In the silence that briefly followed, it was as though you could hear years of pent-up emotion — fear and stigma, pride and rage. And as Nettles’s surviving sisters turned to face the wall of mostly male cops who ringed the rally, it seemed unlikely they were going to disperse fearfully back into the shadows of the night any time soon.

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