NEW YORK, NY — The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) joins Make The Road New York, community leaders, LGBTQ individuals, survivors of violence, and New Yorkers in gathering Monday, March 2nd at 6 PM in Jackson Heights, Queens, to mourn the death of Alexa, a transgender woman of color who was killed near San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the early morning of February 24th.
According to reports, Alexa was homeless, seeking safety at McDonald’s restaurant, and was harassed for using the women’s restroom. She was later killed after being forced to leave the restaurant. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, a coalition of over 50 local member programs working to create systemic and social change for LGBTQ communities, consistently finds that trans women of color face disproportionate rates of persistent and severe — too often fatal — violence, and research consistently shows LGBTQ people face higher rates of poverty and homelessness , as well as widespread employment discrimination, with the highest rates faced by trans and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people of color. Whether the result of racist and transphobic hate violence, violence from a partner or date, or from neglect and abuse in ICE detention, these deaths highlight an epidemic of violence against trans women of color.
“The resurgence of anti-LGBTQ violence, and more specifically anti-trans violence, in Puerto Rico is directly related to the climate of intolerance that has been instigated by political and religious fundamentalist leaders. This needs to stop and it has to stop now. This government has to stop any attempt to take away rights like the changes in the Civil Code that are being considered by the Legislature that would roll back the right of trans people to change the gender marker of their birth certificate. Enough is enough,” said Pedro Julio Serrano, human rights activist and spokesperson for Puerto Rico Para Tod@s.
Actress Selenis Leyva and her sister Marizol Levya called for accountability from Puerto Rican officials and police department: “We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the senseless murder of Alexa. Our hearts are broken at this vicious act of hatred. We urge the police department of Puerto Rico to conduct a full and thorough investigation. Alexa deserves justice.”
This is a crucible moment when we must act, as LGBTQ people and our allies, to create safety for one another by building connections across communities. We need better response to these incidents, but even more urgently, we need to prevent this violence and change the culture that allows it to flourish. AVP stands in solidarity with those in Puerto Rico, and demands the responsible government officials ensure a thorough investigation of Alexa’s death and that the officials work with Puerto Rico’s LGBTQ communities to build trust and safety for all, including ensuring full compliance with a guidance from Puerto Rico Department of Labor & Human Resources for transgender folks.
“It’s important that Mcdonald’s as a corporation takes immediate action to make sure that LGBTQ people are safe in their restaurants globally,” Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of The New York City Anti Violence Project said. “Homeless people, including those who are LGBTQ, often seek refuge and need access to public restrooms. Trans and gender nonconforming people in particular, regardless of housing status, are subjected to violence when attempting to use public restrooms. Bathroom access is an anti-violence issue.”
AVP calls for McDonalds to:
- Take immediate responsibility for whatever part the staff at the McDonalds played in either reporting to the police, making Alexa feel unwelcome, and/or targeting her for using the restroom corresponding with her gender;
- Ensure that all patrons and staff follow the guidance from Puerto Rico’s Department of Labor & Human Resources that protects bathroom access;
- Train all McDonalds staff on how to create safe spaces for those who are TGNC; and
- Engage in conversations with the Puerto Rican LGBTQ community about additional ways McDonald’s can support the community in addressing and preventing violence.
Eliel Cruz, Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
The New York City Anti-Violence Project empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected communities and allies to end violence through organizing and education, and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy.