The Epidemic of Unsolved Transgender Murders in Chicago and Beyond

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Written By Lori Walker

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Two years have passed since Tatiana Labelle was violently killed and left in a garbage bin in Chatham. Despite this time, no one has been arrested for her murder, and her family has not received any substantial updates from the police.

Labelle is among at least 14 transgender and gender-nonconforming people who have been killed in Chicago since 2016, according to data from the Sun-Times. Ten of these cases remain unsolved, leaving families like Labelle’s waiting for justice, which has been incredibly difficult.

Shameika Thomas, Labelle’s sister, expressed her deep pain and frustration, saying she can’t shake the feeling of loss without knowing what happened to her sister. She criticized the police for what she perceives as a lack of care and responsiveness towards victims who are transgender.

Trans activist Zahara Bassett echoed these concerns, noting that many transgender murder cases go unresolved, leaving families and communities without closure. She emphasized the need for police to prioritize these cases and provide answers to grieving families.

The issue extends beyond Chicago; nationwide, over 300 transgender people have been murdered between 2010 and 2021, with a clearance rate of just over 50%. In Chicago, however, only 14% of these cases have been solved, according to researchers.

The violence against transgender individuals, particularly Black and Latinx trans women, often involves extreme force, indicating deep-seated transphobia and bias. This pattern of violence underscores the urgent need for better data collection and more robust efforts to protect transgender communities.

Despite community efforts and advocacy, including from organizations like Life is Work and the Chicago Therapy Collective, challenges persist in ensuring the safety and rights of transgender people. The struggle for justice and safety continues amidst ongoing advocacy and calls for systemic change.

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