Friends, family and allies gathered last Wednesday in a vigil remembering Kandis Capri.
Kandis Capri was murdered last week. This added her to the list of trans women of color being brutally destroyed at a rate that continues to increase.
This calendar year is far from over and we have already passed the number of hate-fueled murders of trans women from last year.
What we don’t know is how accurate any of these numbers really are. The statistics say there were a dozen trans women murdered last year, and in 2015 we already have 20. These are the known murders of trans women and many more may be tangled in the system by the names on their driver licenses, the name at the top of the report, the failure of some families to accept who their children are, and until recently the limited ability of most news sources to know how to approach the subject. These issues need to be addressed to bring this violence into view.
Kandis Capri was loved by many people. At the vigil held this past Wednesday in Phoenix, there was an incredible mix of humanity there to attest to that love. There were lots of little kids who adored her playfulness and friendship, buddies from childhood who had accepted the change from Dedrick to Kandis and only spoke lovingly of how Kandis remodeled the GI Joe they played with in their youth. There were members of the gay and trans youth groups showing respect and asking how to keep themselves safe. But most of all there was Adrias Gaines, Kandis' mother, who had the grace and strength to stand up and talk about the importance of love.
Monica Jones served as the MC at this event. Her prostitution arrest garnered media attention as being only a case of “walking while trans.” Monica, who is studying social work at ASU, has stepped forward as a community activist. This is a mantle she wears well and her sincerity was beautiful.
It is really easy to read about a murder in the paper and then never think of it again. It is easy to say that someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Violence is so much a part of the American cultural experience that we consider it entertainment. We stop and mourn when someone famous dies or when the event is spectacular. Something is innately wrong with this scene.
Kandis Capri was murdered. Shot multiple times. Someone saw a man running from the area. There are no suspects, there seems to be no evidence, and police seem unwilling to consider it a hate crime simply because Kandis was a trans woman.
She was shot at close range like you would expect in a personal confrontation. She was not robbed. She was outside in the apartment complex where she lived. There are currently no leads.
We need to remember Kandis Capri if we ever want to see this carnage stop. The murders of trans women of color is epidemic. The best way to help stop the insanity is to accept, protect and respect the transgender community and lend a hand purely out of love.
I know it works. We did it as the gay community when we were regularly jumped and beaten leaving the safe havens we hid in. And again when the AIDS epidemic made all gay men subject to rejection, ridicule and violence. These situations only get better when these communities are accepted, respected and loved. Bringing lives into the sunshine is itself a protection. Having to live in the shadows is never a healthy alternative. What can we really do to make things change? Do not condone violence against others. Do not support or laugh about statements filled with hate. Call out your friends for name calling or disrespectful behavior. Look for reliable resources to educate yourself and others on important issues concerning the transgender community. Stand up and be counted as an ally, a supporter, a community member, and a person who cares.
Everyone is welcome at the memorial service for Kandis on Thursday night, Aug. 27, 7 p.m., at Central Methodist Church in Phoenix. Fill the place with our support and love. Light a candle. Do something good for someone else. Just do not forget Kandis Capri. If you know anything about who may have committed this horrible act contact the Phoenix Police Department at 602-262-7626.
Anne Schmitt is from Tucson but has lived throughout Arizona over the years. She has been active in the LGBT and HIV communities in Tucson for 40+ years. Her current focus is a blend of photography, writing, activism and storytelling about love, life and Arizona.