By Trisha Young
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Visit milwaukeenns.org.
These are anxious times for members of Milwaukee’s trans community.
They say they are being targeted by anti-trans legislation and are concerned about an uptick in violence directed at them. As a result, advocates worry about what they see as a growing threat to transgender health.
“When certain members of the community are legislated against, it has the very real potential to create poor health outcomes for these communities,” said Brandon Hill, CEO of Vivent Health.
Vivent Health is a clinic that specializes in the treatment and prevention of HIV. The clinic also offers other services, including gender-affirming care (the health care that many nonbinary and transgender persons require to change their gender) to patients.
An issue of safety
Some advocates believe that legislation targeting transgender people places them at greater risk of violence.
“When we talk about trans life, we need to talk about safety,” said Elle Halo, a board member of Diverse & Resilient, an organization that aims to create health and social equity for people of LGBTQ+ identities in Wisconsin.
Halo also is a member of Sisters Helping Each Other Battle Adversity, or SHEBA, a group of Black transgender women who meet for leadership training, health activities and social support.
Halo and other transgender advocates are concerned about the recent uptick in trans murders in the city.
Beginning in 2022, Milwaukee saw a disturbing trend with the killing of four trans women, all of them Black.
Trans women of color, particularly those who are Black, are disproportionately affected by fatal violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that fights for fair treatment and equal rights for LGBTQ+ people.
Chyna Long was the fourth Black trans woman to be killed in Milwaukee since June 2022. She suffered multiple gunshot wounds on the city’s Northwest Side, where she died on Oct. 8.
Long, 30, who grew up in Milwaukee and attended Washington High School, loved to dance and was a choreographer.
Long’s death comes after the homicides of Brazil Johnson, 28; Regina “Mya” Allen, 35; and Cashay Henderson, 31. All three were Black transgender women who were shot and killed within a nine-month period from 2022 to 2023.
Before 2022, Milwaukee had not seen a murder of a Black trans woman in 12 years, according to SHEBA. But in 2010, 26-year-old Chanel Larkin, a SHEBA member, was shot and killed along North 23rd Street.
No suspect has been charged in Johnson’s death. But charges have been filed in the cases of Long, Allen, Henderson and Larkin.
The Milwaukee Police Department confirmed that none of the killings, including Long’s death, were investigated as hate crimes.
When asked whether being a trans woman played a role in their deaths, the Milwaukee Police Department responded in an email that it did not believe they were targeted.
Unprecedented legislative attacks
Approximately 22 states have recently passed laws limiting or prohibiting gender-affirming medical care for transgender people up to 26 years of age. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 507 bills targeting LGBTQ+ and trans specific rights have been proposed.
In Wisconsin, Republicans have also pushed similar bills despite Gov. Tony Evers’ vow to veto them.
“Though I don’t like to speculate on causation, I think we can see the rise in violence against transgender and gender-diverse people is definitely culminating with the rise of anti-transgender rights legislation,” Hill said.
In September, the Board of Supervisors voted to make Milwaukee County a sanctuary county for transgender and nonbinary people.
But advocates say more needs to be done.
“There’s a political culture war happening, but that isn’t necessarily a priority for our girls when they’re worried about access to food and housing security, safety in the streets and access to a healthier life,” Halo said.
This means leaders and residents must confront gun violence, racism, misogyny and poverty, not only for trans women, but for all Milwaukeeans, Halo said.
“If you address these issues like homelessness and gun violence for trans people, you’ll end up addressing these issues for every other member of the community, too,” she said.
Transgender activist Yante Turner said our political landscape has alienated a group of people that “you can politically, socially and spiritually charge.”
Turner is an organizer for Sun-Seeker MKE Collective, a Black trans-led abolitionist collective that uses community engagement to educate Milwaukeeans.
Turner said it’s important for transgender people to be visible in the community. His collective goes into neighborhoods where anti-trans violence has occurred and passes out farm fresh food. This, he said, humanizes trans people.
“Our most under-resourced ZIP codes in the city are also where many of these violent crimes against trans people happen,” Turner said.
For more information
To learn about SHEBA, visit its site or Facebook page.
To learn more about Sun-Seeker MKE Collective, visit its Facebook page or call (414) 909-1904.
To make an appointment at Vivent Health, check out its website or call (1-800) 359-9272.
Diverse & Resilient offers trauma-informed support for the LGBTQ+ community statewide. To talk to an advocate, call or text 414-856-LGBT (5428) or visit its office, 2439 N Holton St. in Milwaukee.
Health clinics and social services with LGBTQ+ tailored options
BESTD located at 1240 E Brady St. Phone number: (414) 272-2144
Holton Street Clinic located at 3251 N Holton St. Phone number: (414) 264-8800
Milwaukee Keenan Health Center located at 3200 N 36th St. Phone number: (414) 286-8840
Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers located at 1032 S. Cesar E. Chavez Drive. Phone number: (414) 897-5645
Outreach Community Health Centers located at 210 West Capitol Drive. Phone number: (414) 727-6320
Planned Parenthood- Wisconsin Avenue Health Center at 2207 W. Wisconsin Ave. Phone number: (844) 493-1052
Planned Parenthood- Mitchell Street Health Center at 1710 S. 7th St., Suite 300. Phone number: (844) 493-1052
Planned Parenthood- Northwest Health Center at 5380 W. Fond du Lac Ave. Phone number: (844) 493-1052
Planned Parenthood- Capitol Drive Health Center at 801 E. Capitol Drive. Phone number: (844) 493-1052
MKE LGBT Community Center located at 315 W. Court St. Phone number: (414) 271-2656
Courage MKE located at 1544 S. 6th St. Phone number: (414) 240-2882