On October 23, 2011 transgender woman Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard was murdered in East Detroit. When her body was discovered, it had been burned and mutilated. The transgendered community, and their allies in Detroit and across the country, suspected a hate crime.
Weeks later, Detroit police arrested Qasim Raqib, a drug dealer Hilliard had bought from in the past. It was revealed that Raqib had been the target of a police sting in which Hilliard had acted as an informant. After posting bond, Raqib allegedly used a new disposable cell phone to lure Hilliard to a house on the 900 block of Longfellow. That was the night of the 23rd. Hilliard was not seen again after her cab dropped her off that night.
After the drug connection became apparent, many discounted the idea that Hilliard’s murder was a hate crime against transgendered people. Whether or not that’s accurate, the tragedy sparked an important conversation about violence against transgendered people, and especially transgendered people of color, in Detroit and around the country. In the year Shelley Hilliard was murdered, 40% of murders classified as hate crimes against the LGBTQH community involved a transgendered woman as the victim. A report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs revealed that LGBTQH people of color were more likely to suffer extreme violence, and that transgender people suffered more severe injuries when compared to other victims of hate crimes that year.
o LGBQH people of color were 3.13 times as likely to experience injuries as compared to overall survivors.
o Transgender people were 1.76 times as likely to require medical attention as compared to overall survivors and were 1.67 as likely to experience police violence.
o Transgender people of color were 2.38 times as likely to experience police violence and 1.85 as likely to experience discrimination.
Violence against transgendered people, and especially transgendered people of color, is a significant and serious issue, which is why we’re happy to hear that director and journalist dream hampton, along with filmmaker and producer Natasha “T” Miller, plan to shoot a documentary not only about Shelley Hilliard’s life, but about the issues facing the transgendered community in Detroit she was an active member of. We’re big fans of dream hampton here at MMXLII. We’ve always been impressed by her thoughtful reporting and filmmaking, which often combines an interest in social justice issues with the world of hip-hop, and we’re especially impressed by the thought she seems to have given this project, which she almost turned down for fear that a beneficiary of cis privilege such as herself making a film about a transgendered woman would amount to voyeurism. We’re equally impressed by Natacha Miller, whose work as an activist and performance poet lead to the award of the Detroit Kresge artist fellowship that made the film possible.
Their movie will be called “TransParent,” and is being funded largely through a Kickstarter campaign, which recently met its fundraising goal of $30,000. The Kickstarter will remain up for a few more days, until the end of July, and though they’ve reached their goal it’s certainly not too late to make a contribution. If you’re as impressed by the trailer above as we were, we encourage you to check out their page and consider helping out with this important and sure-to-be thought-provoking film.
Photo from Catch Fire.