Last Thursday, March 9, amid a blizzard, about 200 people gathered at the plaza adjacent to Metro Transit’s Lake Street/Midtown Station to denounce the savage beating of a trans woman nearby weeks earlier.
The woman, who has not been publicly identified, remains in stable condition. The assault, which happened inside the Lake Street/Midtown Station, comes at a time when Metro Transit is struggling to make the system safe and comfortable. It also comes at a time of heightened hostility towards the transgender community and people who choose to live their authentic identities.
“What happened to that woman is wrong. She deserves to live [free of harassment],” said a frustrated trans person at the rally. “And I’m sorry that my trans existence [and] your trans existence is threatening to your masculinity.”
Despite the work being done to enshrine trans rights in the state, with both the legislature introducing a bill and Gov. Tim Walz signing an executive order affirming trans people’s rights to gender-affirming care, hate crimes towards trans people remain a problem. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension recorded six crimes motivated by bias towards trans people in 2019, four in 2020, and six in 2021. Data for 2022 are unavailable as of this writing.
However, hate crimes against trans people may be underreported. Some don’t trust the police, and the police officers currently rely on training that was last updated in 1992 to identify those crimes.
Rep. Samantha Vang, DFL-Brooklyn Center, introduced a bill in January that would fix both issues. It would require the Board of Peace Officers Standards and Training to update their training materials every three years. It would also provide funding to the Department of Human Rights to take those reports from schools, community organizations and individuals.
The bill, HF 181, was heard in January and awaits a floor vote. The Senate companion has yet to receive a hearing.
Meanwhile, the assault comes at a time where Metro Transit is struggling to make the system safe, which includes contracting for security personnel, enhancing its surveillance cameras on its vehicles, and lobbying for decriminalizing fare evasion citations and funding to deploy a transit ambassador program.
But Jae Yates, who spoke at the rally, is skeptical about all of these solutions because they failed to protect the trans woman from being assaulted. “Clearly it’s not enough to just add cops and add cameras,” said Yates. “What would have prevented this act of violence would be the trans woman having people around her to go with her, people to make sure that she’s able to get home safely. But those people are not cops. Those people are us.”
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