(Advocate) – New Orleans LGBT youth of color activist group BreakOUT! has one simple question: Where is the national outrcry over the murders of trans women of color?
Already this year, nine trans women and gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the U.S., with others likely going unreported or misgendered in death — an average of over two a month, in a consistent trend that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs considers of “epidemic” proportions. Worldwide, a trans woman is killed nearly every two days. The vast majority of these women are black or Latina.
Yet these deaths often fail to appear in national headlines, and local reporters too often misgender trans victims of violence, in violation of journalistic best practices endorsed by the Associated Press and GLAAD. BreakOUT! has emerged this year at the forefront of urging media sensitivity and attention, but progress has been slow.
So this month, the youth group took matters into its own hands, erecting a can’t-miss-it billboard over the Broad St. Bridge in New Orleans.
“BreakOUT!’s solution [to media silence]? Make our own media,” the group’s youth organizer, Milan Nicole Sherry, tells The Advocate. “Develop our own message. Make it so big — over 24 feet wide, in fact — we can’t be ignored.”
The enormous sign is seen by 400,000 commuters and passers-by each day, Sherry estimates. It is currently scheduled to remain up for two months.
That means hundreds of thousands of people are getting this daily reminder: “Ten Transgender women have been murdered so far in 2015. Invest in jobs, housing, and education to keep us safe.”
The billboard displays an illustration of Penny Proud, a 21-year-old local black trans woman murdered February 10 in a suspected robbery. Popular social media hashtags “#BlackTransLivesMatter” and “#MakePennyProud” are displayed beneath her smiling portrait. The billboard’s proclamation that 10 trans women of color have been killed this year includes Vanessa Santillan, a Mexican trans woman who had been living in Miami, until she was beaten to death earlier this year while visiting the United Kingdom.
Read more here.