LGBTQ leaders call for action after murder of trans woman of color

Shahere “Diamond” Jackson-McDonald

“Violence against trans people, especially our trans siblings of color, continues to be an epidemic in this country and we must all do our part to end it,” Office of LGBT Affairs Executive Director Celena Morrison said at a Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) press conference held at Mazzoni Center. The conference was prompted by the murder of Shahere “Diamond” Jackson-McDonald, a 27-year-old trans woman of color.

“My office is committed to ensuring that acts of discrimination, bigotry, and hatred are never tolerated in the City of Philadelphia, and we will not stop until all of us are safe and treated with respect and honor,” Morrison added. 

Jackson-McDonald was found in her mother’s apartment on the 400 block of Manheim Street in Germantown in the predawn hours of Nov. 24. She was found with multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene. There were no signs of forced entry. DA Larry Krasner said at the press conference that “it is too soon to say whether or not this crime is a biased crime, but that possibility is actively being investigated.”

Morrison shared a statement from Linda Jackson, Diamond’s mother. It reads in part: 

“I just want the world to know that Diamond was my rock, my shoulder, my child whom I love with every inch of me, and what I have left to give. Whoever you are, you took away my gem, my diamond, someone who was all about her family and friends. You tore many hearts, and we will not rest until we get justice.”

Jackson-McDonald’s murder marks the 35th known killing of a trans or gender nonconforming person in the U.S. in 2022. 

“I have no other choice but to wonder whether the community advocates, City officials and the Philadelphia police department have done enough,” Tatyana Woodard said at the press conference. Woodard co-founded Ark of Safety LGBTQ Safe Haven and works as community affairs manager at Mazzoni Center. “The answer is: we can do more. We all have an obligation to transgender women, to the transgender community as a whole. We deserve the right to live without fear, thinking we won’t make it to 40. We deserve to live to tell our stories to the next generation, and not have them read them in today’s newspaper. We deserve to live.”

Mikah Thomas, member of the DAO LGBTQ+ Advisor Committee, pointed out that Jackson-McDonald’s murder and the shooting at Club Q in Colorado took place on the heels of Transgender Awareness Week and Trans Day of Remembrance, when the community comes together to mourn and uplift the trans lives lost to violence. 

“When one of us is taken in vain, it impacts and affects us all despite media recognition,” Thomas said at the press conference. “It sucks going to social media finding out someone is gone, and we have to keep moving, keep working, not remembering to take time for ourselves. During these times we remember that we cannot give up. The intersecting identities we are living will always be our truth. We want to live past our age expectancies and live as the best versions of ourselves.”

As part of his address to the public, Krasner noted that there is a direct correlation between speech attacking and vilifying trans and gender nonconforming people, and violent acts like the shooting at Club Q. The shooter in that case legally purchased an AR-style rifle despite having a known history of violent threats, Krasner said. 

“Here in Pennsylvania we have been begging for a Red Flag law from our state legislature,” Krasner said at the press conference. “We’ve been begging for a state anti-discriminaton law protecting LGBTQ+ people from being fired or being evicted because of their identity. Our legislature, while it was under Republican control this past session, not only worked to make it easier for violent people to get their hands on guns, they introduced six pieces of legislation targeting trans kids.”

The DAO and the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) urge anyone with information about Jackson-McDonald’s case to come forward, either by calling 911 or submitting a tip to the PPD’s tip line at 215-686-8477.