Community Seeking Answers in Brandy Martell’s Killing

By Jesse  Brooks   In the wake of the funeral Wednesday for Brandy Martell, a Hayward resident who was shot in downtown Oakland, family and community remembers are asking questions about what police are doing to investigate the killing. Martell, 37, who identified as transsexual, was reportedly shot several times the morning of April 29 while sitting in a car at the corner of Franklin and 13th streets. Her killing was one of three homicides that morning, and as of yet, there are no suspects in custody. The police have said they have no new leads on the shooter. While some are saying her death was the result a botched robbery, Martell’s friends and many of those who identify as transgender are saying it was a hate crime. They want to make sure the Oakland Police Department is doing everything possible to catch the killer. “If they (the police) don’t do something, more of us will die,” said Tanajsha Thompson, who knew Martell for over 20 years. “It’s not acceptable for people to think our lives aren’t worthy, that if someone kills us, no one cares,” said Thompson. “Someone knows something, and they should come forward.” Johnna Watson, spokeswoman for the police department said, “It’s a tragedy when anyone loses their life …  (OPD is) actively investigating all three murders that happened that night, including Martell’s. But there are no leads nor is there a suspect as of yet.” Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan’s office also released a statement. “We acknowledge that LGBT people often struggle with threats of violence and violence,” Kaplan’s statement said. “We are working with the OPD and Administration to make sure that justice prevails.” “We are mourning the death of Brandy Martell …as a vibrant, caring active member of our community.” A post on Martell’s Facebook page authored by a family member says, “Please respect that the parents have chosen to put their child to rest as Milton Massey Jr. as he was born into the world and will be sent back to God as such, Please be respectful of their decision.” Andrea Horne, a Transgender advocate, says this kind of family reaction is common. “All the girls are fearful that this will happen to them. As we live our lives as who we want to be, the family gets control and doesn’t respect who we are,” said Horne, who is transgendered herself and worked with Martell in a TG support group. According to Webster’s Dictionary, gender is a societal or behavioral aspect of sexual identity. The term transgender is actually an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of gender expressions including cross-dresser, bi-gender and transsexual. Transgender people are highly vulnerable and marginalized, facing discrimination commonly when seeking to obtain basic necessities such as employment, housing, and healthcare. Also common are reports of violence and harassment. Because of these and other factors impacting transgenders, especially transgenders of color, they suffer health disparities including HIV. Martell had worked as a Peer Advocate for Trans-Vision a program of Tri-City Health Center in Fremont. “Brandy helped put together Trans-Vision’s annual Alameda County Transgender Day of Remembrance held yearly in November to honor transgenders who were killed by violence each year,” said Tiffany Woods, Martell’s supervisor. Transgender Day of Remembrance started as a candlelight vigil in 1999 in San Francisco to honor Rita Hester, a transgender whose murder was never solved.  Since then, the event has grown to encompass memorials in hundreds of cities around the world. In 2011, 200 names were read from an international list of murder victims. An estimated 5,000 transgender persons live in the Bay Area. .
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