TRANSGENDER MURDER RATES soar in Northern California

By Tamara Barak
Bay City News

While discrimination and hate crimes against gays, lesbians and transgender individuals plummeted in 2006, severe violence has spiked around Northern California, according to a report released this morning.

Transgender women of color are particularly at risk, according to Community United Against Violence , the San Francisco-based organization that released the Report of Anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Violence.

The overall murder rate for gays, lesbians and transgender people in Northern California doubled from 2005 to 2006, from two to four cases.

Half of those victims were transgender women of color, according to the report.

The count does not include transgender murder victim Ruby Ordenana, also known as Ruby Rodriguez, whose body was found near a freeway off-ramp in San Francisco on March 16. Police have made no arrests in her murder, San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said today.

It also does not include the suspicious death of Daxi Arredondo, a transgender woman found dead in a Tenderloin motel last November. While the medical examiner ruled Arredondo’s cause of death to be an overdose, she had evidence of injury on her body and a man left her hotel room at 5 a.m., according to today’s report.

“Tragically, these violent deaths are not isolated,” said Jovida Guevara-Ross, executive director of CUAV.

“Transgender women of color face systematic discrimination, criminalization, and brutal violence in their everyday lives.”

Guevara-Ross called on community organizations and public institutions to make education about transgender women a priority, as well as providing services for them.

“True safety requires a commitment to end violence against all communities,” she said.

The murder count for 2006 began in January, with the still-unsolved murder of a 50-year-old gay man in his Post Street apartment, according to CUAV.

On Jan. 3, Chad Ferriera, 27, a gay man living in San Francisco, was beaten at 2 a.m. on Castro Street. Ferriera died the next day. His alleged attacker, Kyle Brandon Adams, has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and assault and has claimed self-defense.

On June 26, Alfred/Ariana Dibble, a biological male in his 40s, who had both a male and female identity, was found beaten and unconscious in the bushes in Stockton. Dibble never regained consciousness.

The Stockton police have not classified the murder as a hate crime due to lack of evidence, the CUAV report states.

The final murder of 2006 occurred Nov. 19. Thalia Sandoval, a 27-year-old transgender woman, was stabbed to death in her Antioch home after reportedly picking up the murder suspect at a bar.

In addition to the rising murder rate, the report found an increase in gay men reporting sexual assaults to the San Francisco Police Department. Most of the assaults occurred in the Castro neighborhood. On Oct. 26, neighbors formed Castro Community on Patrol, which increased safety
measures at night.

While sexual assaults in the Castro rose, overall incidents in the neighborhood fell 56 percent from 2005.

In total, CUAV reported 285 incidents of hate violence in 2006 – an 11 percent decrease from 322 incidents reported to the organization in 2005.

Reports of bias fell 8 percent from 364 in 2005 to 336 in 2006.

About 60 percent of the offenders were friends or acquaintances of the victims, according to the report.

Incidents committed by a member of a hate group fell 75 percent, from four incidents in 2005 to a single incident last year.

Transgender-related bias saw a 94 percent increase, from 33 incidents in 2005 to 64 incidents in 2006.

The biggest jump, however, was in the number of incidents involving AIDS/HIV-related and heterosexist bias – from one incident in 2005 to 15 last year.

CUAV found that police were courteous, with fewer reports of physical or verbal abuse toward gays, lesbians and transgender people.

However, there was a 120 percent increase in reports of police indifference.

The report makes recommendations to stem violence and discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people, including partnerships between the media and nonprofits to create social justice-focused journalism; ongoing sensitivity training for law enforcement and those in the criminal legal system; and community outreach such as mentoring gay and lesbian youth and seniors, job training and promoting volunteerism at anti-violence organizations.

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