Attorneys for a man being charged in an aggravated assault case against Muhlaysia Booker are asking that she be deadnamed and misgendered during the trial.
In May, Booker’s death received national attention after the 23-year-old became one of 16 Black trans women killed in 2019. Just a month before she was shot to death, however, a video of the 23-year-old being beaten went viral. Edward Thomas is being prosecuted for the latter crime, and the trial will begin in October.
This week Judge Hector Garza of Texas’ 195th Criminal District Court will rule on what name will appear on the indictment — whether it will be the one friends and community members knew her as or one that undermines her identity as a trans woman.
The ruling will be the second time that Garza has to make a decision on the matter as he initially decided that Booker was to be referred to as Muhlaysia.
The defense attorneys have objected.
Muhlaysia is “legally a male by gender,” the attorneys wrote according to Fox 4 News. “To name him 'Muhlaysia' Booker could have the jury wrongfully conclude that [he] is female … This is prejudicial against our client, who is male."
The lawyers also point out that Booker’s name was never legally changed.
The name change process for trans people is notoriously difficult. In Texas, there is no standardized way for trans people to change government documents like driver’s licenses and birth certificates, according to the Texas Observer. Being able to get a gender marker change relies on “getting in front of a friendly judge,” adds Houston attorney Katie Sprinkle.
These structural issues likely prevented Booker from getting a legal name change and gender marker change.
How Booker is presented in this case is important. Not only are the defense judges arguing to allow for blatant transphobia to be admitted into the court record, but they are doing so for the specific reason of skewing how the jury views what took place. If they are allowed to do so, it could prevent the legal team pursuing justice on Booker’s behalf.
A suspect has been idenfied, arrested, and charged in Booker’s murder investigation as well.