In Memory of Bee Love Slater

Bee Love Slater was the eighteenth transgender person murdered in the US this year. She was found burned beyond recognition in Florida on September 4; authorities had to identify her by her dental records, several days later. The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said it is one of the most brutal homicides the county has ever seen

I can only imagine the pain and hurt her family is experiencing, the suffering and injustice the transgender community must be experiencing. I receive The New York Times Morning Briefing, and their article about Slater didn’t even make one of their emailed “top headlines.” My mom, who works for Keshet, a nonprofit that strives to achieve full equality and inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life, was the one who sent me The New York Times article. The article about the murder showed how the forces at work in Slater’s murder were  transphobia, intense hatred, and political grief. But, the murder didn’t even cross the radar of most Americans. 

We have an obligation as Jewish women to pay attention to these instances of hateful discrimination. Judaism and feminism have taught us to stand up for other minority groups, but transgender women are frequently not included in feminist movements. Transphobic violence in the US is on the rise, and statistics don’t account for all the unreported deaths or murders in which the victims were not identified as transgender. 

Black transgender women, like Bee Love Slater, are disproportionately affected, victims of the ultimate escalation of violence, racism, and transphobia. Florida’s hate crime laws do not specifically support transgender individuals. Even in death, Slater couldn’t have dignity because she wasn’t recognized as a woman by the state.  

In a political climate of desensitization and mass atrocity, we cannot minimize the loss of an individual’s life. Prejudice towards marginalized communities is not new, nor did President Trump create this animosity. His oppressive rhetoric, however, normalizes hatred. He encourages white cisgender Americans to voice their frustration. As Senator Kamala Harris said during the debate in Houston on September 12, “Trump didn’t pull the trigger, but he tweeted out the ammunition.” 

Acts of brutality like Slater’s murder are products of our current political system, one mired in prejudice and discrimination. The transgender community needs more solidarity now, with Trump trying to take away their hard-earned rights. The Trump administration’s discriminatory policies include but are not limited to his banning of transgender individuals from serving in the US armed forces, telling the Supreme Court it is legal to fire transgender workers, and advocating for state-sanctioned anti-transgender discrimination in homeless shelters.

Murders like Slater’s are the ultimate products of escalating prejudice and violence against the transgender community. But we are living in an age where hate crimes are normalized. An individual’s pain is lumped into statistics, and violence becomes normal. 

In the coming weeks, people are going to compare this tragedy to other tragedies — even if they even hear about it. Some people will minimize Slater’s death by throwing out conjectures about why she was killed, or why it had nothing to do with her identity. This is cisgender denial. In the media, in our communities, and in our activism, we must work to restore Slater’s dignity. 

We must welcome transgender women into feminist spaces. As Jews, we must stand up for justice in these instances of hatred and bigotry. Our response to these horrific events should be outcry, compassion, and activism. This reaffirms the immense need for groups like Keshet, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and other nonprofits committed to the full equality of the transgender community

As Roxanne Gay writes in in her essay, “Tragedy. Call. Compassion. Response.,” “Death is a tragedy whether it is the death of one girl in London or 76 men, women, and children in Norway. We know this but perhaps it needs to be said over and over again so we do not forget. I have never considered compassion a finite resource. I would not want to live in a world where such was the case.” 

Topics: LGBTQIA Rights
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How to cite this page

Solomon, Maddie. "In Memory of Bee Love Slater." 5 November 2019. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 17, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/memory-bee-love-slater>.

A person holds a sign reading "Take Action for Trans Rights." Photo by Marc Nozell, via Wikimedia Commons.

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