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Murdered & misgendered in Mississippi, Jackson Trans man shot to death

Groves was misgendered and deadnamed in most of the local media coverage except the Clarion-Ledger which issued a correction

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Mel Groves via his personal Facebook page

JACKSON – A 25-year-old Trans male resident of the Mississippi capital city died from multiple gunshot wounds this past Monday. Sam Brown, a spokesperson for the Jackson Police Department told media outlets that the victim had been shot several times and managed to drive to Merit Health Hospital collapsing as he exited the vehicle.

Mel Groves was transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he died from his injuries. “Police are trying to determine where the shooting took place, as well as the motive and potential suspects,” Brown said. Jackson Police are treating this as an active Homicide investigation.

Groves was misgendered and deadnamed in most of the local media coverage, although the Clarion-Ledger, which has the largest daily circulation in the state issued a correction, noting “This story has been updated to correct the identification of the victim.

The Knights & Orchids Society (TKO) a Selma, Alabama headquartered Southern states grassroots startup founded and led by black, queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people supporting gender justice and LGBTQ visibility expressed its outrage and sadness over Groves’ murder.

In a Facebook post the group said, “The motive is unknown, but we know the violence that happens to trans people in our communities. Mel had even shared that he feared for his life because he was trans in Jackson.

He was the chosen family of our Executive Director Quentin Bell, former TKO Youth Ambassador(formerly known as the anchor program), and farmer for TKO Society’s garden program. He was a Plant Soil Scientist from TU who loved agriculture and animals.

TKO leadership is in Jackson, Mississippi trying to find real answers. Help us. Please contact Mississippi media outlets and demand that they stop misgendering him.

We are offering a reward for any leads and information.”

The National Black Justice Coalition, in a statement, also decried the misgendering and deadnaming Groves, in addition to his being the 39th Trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming person to die by violence in the U.S. this year. That’s approaching last year’s record of 44, and that’s not counting all the deaths not reported because of misgendering the NBJC said.

The violence this year seems never-ending, and I am devastated each time I hear of another trans sibling lost,” Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the NBJC, said in the statement. “What is even more heartbreaking is the fact Mel expressed fear for his life because he was trans living in Jackson. Trans people should not have to fear violence simply because of their identity, but that is our country’s current reality. This has to do with the prevalence of transphobia in our daily lives and the inaction around the epidemic of violence against the trans community.

How many times do advocates have to demand legislation that protects the trans community before lawmakers introduce and pass laws that do so? How many times must we point out that misgendering and deadnaming in police reports and news coverage damages the investigations? How many times must we highlight the need for training and action from public safety officials addressing and preventing the violence against the trans community? We cannot continue the way we are going. The time for action is now before even more lives are lost.”

 

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Mississippi

Gubernatorial hopeful says Trans people need to be killed- by firing squad

Although Twitter deleted the post and Foster’s reply in the thread, he has continued to tweet ad hominem transphobic remarks

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Former GOP Mississippi State Rep. Robert Foster (Photo via campaign; Foster for Governor website)

HERNANDO, Ms. – Former Mississippi State Representative Robert Foster, a Republican who had served from January 5, 2016 until January 7, 2020 representing House District 28 in Northwestern Mississippi approximately 23 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, tweeted out last week that it was his conviction that transgender people and their allies need to be shot dead by firing squad.

Although Twitter deleted the post, (pictured above) and Foster’s reply in the thread, he has continued to tweet ad hominem transphobic remarks.

Foster, who campaigned for the governor’s chair in 2019 lists himself on his Twitter bio as a “Man of Faith, and Constitutional Conservative.”

Then, two days after the initial tweet Foster tweeted:

Spencer Ritchie, the former executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party from 2014 to 2017 and who is now on the Mississippi Ethics Commission, criticized Foster’s tweet and expressed his distaste with Foster’s blatant transphobia:

Mississippi Free Press journalist Ashton Pittman noted; Foster, who runs Cedar Hill Farm, an agritourism business in DeSoto County, Miss., served as a state representative from 2016 until 2020, where he authored the state’s current death penalty law in 2017, allowing for executions by gas chamber, electrocution and firing squad. He placed third in the 2019 Republican primary for governor after making national headlines for refusing to allow women journalists to ride along in his truck on the campaign trail despite allowing male journalists to do so.

The Mississippi Free Press requested an interview with Foster about Thursday’s tweet, but he sent a message declining the invitation.

“I said what I said,” he wrote, adding to what he had tweeted. “The law should be changed so that anyone trying to sexually groom children and/or advocating to put men pretending to be women in locker rooms and bathrooms with young women should receive the death penalty by firing squad.”

Pittman also reported that Foster’s tweet followed anti-trans remarks from other Republicans in the state and across the country. Less than three hours before Foster’s tweet, his former opponent, Gov. Tate Reeves, mocked President Joe Biden and his U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, for not answering a question related to gender and transgender issues.

In 2021, Gov. Reeves signed a bill into law banning transgender students from participating on school sports teams that match their gender. 

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Mississippi

Mississippi House bill bans Trans inmates from changing gender marker

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Mississippi State Capitol Building, Jackson Mississippi (Photo by Ken Lund)

JACKSON, Ms. – The Mississippi state House of Representatives last week passed a bill that would prohibit incarcerated individuals from requesting a name change or updating their gender marker in what advocates say is a direct attack on Trans people in the state. 

H.B. 1099, or the “Real You Act,” passed the House last Thursday in a 84-30 vote largely along party lines. The legislation now heads to the state Senate, which is already considering a similar bill. 

In its original form, the House version would have also banned minors from legally changing their gender marker. However, the bill was amended to limit its reach to just incarcerated individuals. 

“This bill does nothing to address any of the actual issues being experienced by incarcerated transgender people and instead places another hurdle in front of them,” said Rob Hill, state director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization, in Mississippi. “Our elected leaders must do better.”

Under the bill, state officials would not be able to permit a name or gender marker change unless one was filed by a district attorney, a county sheriff, the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections or a department chaplain on behalf of the incarcerated individual.

Mississippi state Rep. Jeff Hale (R-24) didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment. 

According to the HRC, the legislation follows the direct recommendations of a 2015 policy paper by the Family Research Council, an evangelical activist group that opposes and lobbies against LGBTQ+ rights. 

“Ideally, the law would forbid government recognition in any way (whether on birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports, or any other government-issued identification) of any change in an individual’s biological sex as identified at birth,” the paper reads. 

Hill accused Mississippi state Representatives of making “Mississippi an innovator in anti-transgender discrimination.”

“This legislation is being pushed by anti-equality forces in the state house and not addressing any actual problem – it’s an exceptionally shameful example of politicians trying to score political points on the backs of some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society,” said Hill.

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Mississippi

Mississippi library defies anti-LGBTQ+ Mayor, holds fundraising campaign

Undeterred by the mayor’s blatant homophobia the library set up a crowd fundraiser to offset a potential financial shortfall

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Elsie E. Jurgens Library - Ridgeland MS (LA Blade screenshot, Google earth)

RIDGELAND, Ms. – When Tonja Johnson, the executive director for the Madison County Library System, reached out to Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee after failing to receive the City’s first quarterly payment of 2022 for funding- the mayor informed her that no payment was forthcoming. 

“He explained his opposition to what he called ‘homosexual materials’ in the library, that it went against his Christian beliefs, and that he would not release the money as the long as the materials were there,” Johnson said.

The director then explained to the mayor that the library system, as a public entity, was not a religious institution. “I explained that we are a public library and we serve the entire community. I told him our collection reflects the diversity of our community,” Johnson said.

Apparently, the mayor was unmoved. “He told me that the library can serve whoever we wanted, but that he only serves the great Lord above,” she finished.

The lack of funds would significantly negatively the library’s services and even cause a likely lay off its employees, Johnson told local media outlets as the story spread. Undeterred by the mayor’s blatant homophobia and coupled with the ongoing battle to receive its promised funding, the library set up a crowd fundraiser through its ‘Ridgeland Friends of the Library,’ volunteers group.

Initially the group set a modest goal of only a few thousand dollars with the posted message of; The Ridgeland Friends of the Library is a fundraising and support organization for the Madison County Library, especially the branch here in Ridgeland.  We are welcoming donor support in this difficult and trying time for the library. If the Mayor doesn’t relent, the library will see its funding cut. We believe that the public library is for the entire public. Help us prepare for the worst and send a message that the library budget should not be held hostage to these un-American views. All donations will be used to benefit the library and the people it serves.”

The response, however, was overwhelming. The group had then readjusted its goal upwards to $75,000.00 with an end date of Valentines Day, February 14 and as of Thursday, February 3, the group was within a few hundred dollars of reaching that goal with $74,380.00 raised.

 “We are amazed and humbled by the overwhelming support and generosity you have shown. Please know that your donations will be used to help ensure that our library’s collections and programs continue to reflect the diversity of our community and will remain uncensored. Thank you,” read a message from Teresa Gerald, the President of the Friends of the Ridgeland Library.

In the meantime the battle over the library’s funding continues. Whatever authority the mayor intends to serve, it’s unclear if his action is legally defensible.

“This is taxpayer money that was already approved by the board of aldermen,” Johnson explained. “It was included in the city budget for 2021-2022. It’s the general-fund appropriation that the City of Ridgeland sends every year for daily operation of the library. That money goes to everything from purchasing materials to supporting programs and staff salaries.”

Without the support of the board of aldermen, it is unclear if the mayor will be able to maintain the funding hold for long. Moreover, the mayor’s action may well violate basic constitutional rights, based on earlier court cases on the subject of LGBTQ book bans, including Sund v. City of Wichita Falls.

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