Magazine article Newsweek

Targeting Transgenders: A Rash of Killings Has Washington, D.C.'S 'Trans'community on Edge. A Fragile Group under Siege

Magazine article Newsweek

Targeting Transgenders: A Rash of Killings Has Washington, D.C.'S 'Trans'community on Edge. A Fragile Group under Siege

Article excerpt

Byline: Holly Bailey

Bella Evangelista may have been born a man, but to her friends she was always a lady. Born Elvys Augusto Perez in Guatemala, the 25-year-old immigrant to Washington, D.C., had lived and dressed as a woman for more than nine years. Evangelista favored miniskirts, high heels and heavy makeup, and wore long, straight hair to emulate her fashion idol, Jennifer Lopez. A popular drag performer in Washington's gay and transgender nightclub scene, Evangelista won talent contests lip-syncing to Gloria Estefan tunes. "She was a Latin diva, 100 percent woman, 24/7," says Ruby Bracamonte, one of Evangelista's closest friends.

But offstage, life wasn't nearly as glamorous. Like many transgenders, Evangelista had trouble finding a day job. She struggled with a persistent drug habit, and occasionally resorted to an especially risky form of prostitution--soliciting straight men on the street without telling them her true gender. In the early morning hours of Aug. 16, Evangelista was gunned down by a man police say had paid Evangelista for oral sex, then became enraged when he discovered Evangelista was not really a woman. A suspect, 22-year-old Antoine Jacobs, was captured fleeing the scene on a bicycle. Police say he told them that he fired only after Evangelista tried to rob him.

Evangelista's killing was gruesome, but it wasn't unique. In the past year four other transgender men have been found brutally murdered in the Washington area. Another was attacked and narrowly survived. Police say that so far, they have found no connections between the crimes. The unsolved killings have enraged the "trans" community, whose members call Washington a "deathtrap for the transgendered" and accuse police of giving the cases short shrift. (Nationwide, nine other transgenders have been murdered in the past 12 months, according to Remembering Our Dead, a San Francisco-based activist group. …

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