The Gist


The transgender community and their allies are enraged and exasperated with yet another brutal example of the injustices they face everyday as the corpse of trans woman Donna Nierra was found by the river in Caloocan—leaving an alarming message that violence in the trans community is far from over.

/ 2 October 2020

In 2019, a report that claimed the average life expectancy of a trans woman of color is at 35 years old broke through the Internet, and many were alarmed of its implications — as they should. Although the report was later proven to be false, the truth still remains that trans people are assaulted and harassed everyday, with most of the stories behind it never seeing the light of day in national news and media. This is true for many parts of the world, including the seemingly happy and hospitable shores of the Philippines.

Earlier this week, the death of Donna Nierra brought light once again to the issue of trans-related killings in the country, as the 23-year old was reported to be missing on Saturday, September 26, before her body was discovered by several children near a river in Caloocan City on Tuesday, September 29. As horrible as it is, this is not the first time the grave offense of murder was committed to a member of the transgender community, and then eventually forgotten without the murderers getting the imprisonment or incarceration they deserve.

Let’s not forget the sudden grant of pardon to Marine Joseph Pemberton, a man who admitted to murdering trans woman Jennifer Laude back in 2014. After an intense back-and-forth between the two parties, Pemberton was finally sentenced to 12 years in prison, which was later reduced to 10 years on appeal. After serving six years of his time, the country was shocked with news of his freedom in such a seemingly random time as in the middle of a health crisis.

Just on social media, Filipinos were raging about this particular injustice, as the rest of the LGBTQIA+ community expressed their frustration and anger on the matter, and everything else they’ve had to endure throughout the years due to prejudice, ignorance, and an immense amount of hate from people who just can’t let them be.

It’s an even greater offense in this case as Pemberton’s prosecution was one of the very few “wins” or acts of justice that the trans community has received throughout the years, and to have it snatched out of their hands after the issue was thought to be laid to rest is like ripping out a band-aid placed on top of a bleeding gash. The band-aid didn’t heal the irreparable pain Laude’s murder caused her family and the community, but it was enough to slow down the bleeding — and now it’s just been torn off.

These recent crimes, on top of years of constant battle, is a glaring reminder to us all of the incessant fight of the trans community to be heard, respected, and be given equal rights. Nierra and Laude’s murders are not isolated cases, but a part of the long list of injustices fueling the Trans Lives Matter movement in the Philippines, and all around the world.

Regardless of what you believe in, and on whether or not you agree with the way people live their lives, it’s a no-brainer that everyone deserves to live unafraid of going out on a date, and the slight chance of never coming back home. This fear is one that most women have to deal with everyday, and the anxiety is even more palpable for trans women living in this hateful world.

It’s a long fight to equality and justice, but it’s a fight that needs to be done to create a much-needed change in humanity that fosters love, acceptance, and at the very least, basic human decency. Also: really, how hard is it to NOT kill someone?