Nicole Clark, a 19-year-old transgender woman, was attacked last month on Monroe Avenue near Goodman Street. Clark, who was with her mother at the time, says she was punched several times and knocked to the ground, where the attack continued, according to a police report.
Police later charged Dyshieka McFadden with harassment in relation to the attack. Police have since charged McFadden with third-degree assault as a hate crime, which is a felony. Police allege that McFadden used homophobic and gender-related slurs while punching and kicking Clark. McFadden also allegedly questioned Clark about her clothing and genitals.
The attack has reverberated through Rochester's transgender community as well as the broader LGBT community, says Julia Acosta, a transgender woman and activist. Even though the general public has recently become more aware of transgender people's concerns, safety remains a huge issue for the trans community, Acosta says. Research shows that trans people of color are particularly vulnerable, she says.
"There is still so much violence directed at trans people," says Acosta. "And every time a trans person is attacked or murdered, it sends a message to the community that we aren't safe."
About 100 people attended a rally on August 6 to protest the attack against Clark, and Acosta says the incident has led to much-needed discussion. The New York State law concerning hate crimes needs clarification, some LGBT leaders say. Acosta and others in the community are urging state lawmakers to amend the hate crime law to extend protections specifically to transgender individuals.
"The law says 'gender,' but it does not refer to gender identity or transgender," says Acosta. "We need to get rid of the ambiguous language."
The incident also exposed the diversity of opinion within the LGBT community about the trans community, says Acosta. The larger gay community hasn't always been inclusive, she says. For instance, some people in the transgender community question whether drag queens are making a mockery of the gender identity issue.
"There's all this pressure in the trans community to pass," says Acosta. It troubles some transgender women to see drag queens creating exaggerated depictions of female characters.
"Some of us struggle every day for that acceptance," she says.
The reason passing is such an important issue in the trans community is that it is directly linked to other challenges, such as employment and housing.
"The list of places where you can get a job [as a trans person] is very, very small," she says. "Being hired as a trans person is still very difficult."