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June 18, 2019

Fort Worth police hope to alleviate LGBTQ community’s fears after 2 trans women killed

BY KALEY JOHNSON with the Star Telegram


After two transgender women were killed in Dallas in the past month, a meeting Monday night between the Fort Worth Police Department and LGBTQ groups in Fort Worth was both timely and needed, attendees and community leaders said.

Muhlaysia Booker, a black transgender woman, was killed in Dallas on May 18. After a second black transgender woman, Chynal Lindsey, was found dead in a lake, some Fort Worth members of the LGBTQ community were afraid they were the next target.

About 60 people went to a transgender group’s meeting last week, and many of them were scared, said Finnigan Jones, executive director of Trans-Cendence International, at Monday night’s meeting.

“That entire day, I had taken calls from community members, particularly some of our senior citizen transgender women, who were afraid to walk their dog. They were afraid to just go to the grocery store and get toilet paper,” he said. “And that is the fear that is happening in the community.”

About three weeks ago, Fort Worth’s interim police chief, Ed Kraus, asked Felipe Gutierrez to help him reach out to the LGBTQ community in Fort Worth in response to the killings in Dallas.

Gutierrez, Director Development and Engagement for One Safe Place, helped coordinate Monday’s meeting, where about 40 officers, community members and local groups talked about fears in the community, how Fort Worth police can help and how people can defend themselves.

Jones asked Kraus and the police department to help set up self-defense training for the LGBTQ community in Fort Worth, particularly for transgender women. He also said some women want help learning how to conceal and carry guns.

“They are just scared because they are transgender women. They feel that transgender women are being targeted,” he said.

Naomi Green, a black transgender woman, said she has felt that fear herself and called the murder of trans women in the U.S. “a state of crisis.” As the intervention specialist at the nonprofit Abounding Prosperity, Green said Fort Worth has the opportunity to show the U.S. the benefits of the LGBTQ community and police working together.

“We are being killed at alarmingly high numbers,” she said about transgender women. “Right now in Dallas and Fort Worth, we have the opportunity to be the face of change.”

In 2018, at least 28 transgender people were killed in the U.S., according to data gathered by CNN. All but one of the victims were transgender women, and all but one were people of color.

The meeting also comes a week before the 10-year anniversary of the Rainbow Lounge raid, in which a “bar check” by Fort Worth police and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents resulted in injuries to two patrons, several arrests and citywide protests.

Fort Worth officers and LGBTQ leaders at the meeting said they have seen a shift in LGBTQ acceptance in Fort Worth since the raid. In 2000, Fort Worth was the first city in Texas to protect people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. In 2009, the law was updated to include the same protection for transgender people.

Kraus said sensitivity training in the department and more interaction with the gay community has spurred positive change. Jones said he tells group members who are fearful of law enforcement that Fort Worth police are on their side.

Fort Worth police are far ahead of Dallas law enforcement when it comes to LGBTQ protections, another panelist, Rafael McDonnell with Dallas’ Resource Center, said at the meeting.

“Fort Worth is doing right; Dallas needs to catch up,” he said.

Still, leaders said they are working to provide more protections for the LGBTQ community in DFW.

“It was encouraging to hear some of the positive things that were said about the Fort Worth Police Department,” Kraus said at the end of the meeting. “I wasn’t sure exactly what the feeling was, and it encourages me. But I know we have some improvements we can make, and that’s what we’ll strive to do.”