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Of the seven trans or gender non-conforming people who have been killed in the last four years, all were involved in survival sex work. "When you look around and everyone in that same area is doing it and there is no hope and nobody has a normal life or a normal job and you know how much you've applied yourself, what more do you have to do?
That fact highlights the dangers of Six Mile and Woodward, as well as the lack of opportunities for so many trans women of color in Detroit. What is left for you to do other than that in order to survive?
Since 2011, seven trans or gender non-conforming individuals have been murdered in the city.
Zoom in on 2015 and the gravity of the situation crystallizes.
It's where many in the Detroit LGBTQ community congregate. This stomach-turning reality is why Julisa Abad, a trans women who moved to Detroit from Tampa, Fla., a little over four years ago, was skeptical when on a balmy August evening — less than a week after Amber was shot and killed — Detroit Police Chief James Craig held an "LGBTQ Community Chat" to "build trust." "The meeting was long overdue," Julisa says, stressing the word 'long,' as she pushes a curled strand of brown hair behind her bedazzled hoop earrings.
Within the hour, Ashton's mom, Rebecca O'Hara, was at the hospital.In the three months following Ashton's death, two others — Amber Monroe, a trans woman, and Melvin, a cross-dressing man — were killed.Both murders took place near Palmer Park, a 296-acre green space that runs along Woodward Avenue between Six Mile and Seven Mile.The seemingly never-ending stream of violence has kept her busy.
"I've seen girls pushed out of cars, shot, walking down Woodward completely naked because they got stripped and robbed in cars," Julisa says.Nearly 25 percent of trans people in Michigan, who took part in the last comprehensive survey of the population, said they became homeless because of their gender identity and/or expression.Ten percent of trans people drop out of school because of bullying — something Ashton decided to do after the ninth grade."This has been an ongoing thing." Julisa is friendly with Officer Danni Woods, the LGBTQ liaison who Chief Craig appointed in 2013.