Laverne Cox Criticizes Jacksonville Police for Deadnaming Problem

When Laverne Cox contemplated suicide, she planned to leave a note in her pocket listing her name, preferred gender, pronouns and the fact that she should be referred to as a woman.

The actress wrote about that dark time last night on Twitter after reading about Florida’s Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Last week, ProPublica released an in-depth report revealing that out of the 85 cases of transgender people being murdered the publication looked at, 74 were identified by names or genders they no longer identify with.

As noted in the report, the deadnaming — calling a trans person by a name they no longer use — was especially glaring in Jacksonville, the largest city by area in the country and the 12th most populous.

In Jacksonville, four black trans women were shot, three fatally, within the last six months.

“In public statements and official documents, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has repeatedly identified the victims as men, refusing to call them by the names they chose to use in their lives,” ProPublica reported.

Following the story’s release, Cox issued a statement on Twitter.

“As I read this report from ProPublica I sobbed and wept for all the trans people who have been murdered,” she said. “I am angered, saddened and enraged that the police in Jacksonville, Florida and other jurisdictions don’t have policies in place to respect the gender identities of trans folks when they have been MURDERED. This misgendering and deadnaming also impedes the investigations into these murders.”

According to ProPublica, police that routinely use victims’ preferred names and pronouns said it was an effort to keep a relationship between the police agency and the transgender community. But JSO told the publication it was following policy, “which is to identify people based on a medical examiner’s report and whatever name and sex are listed on their state identification.”

In response to public outrage, some police departments have promised to do better. JSO “has not publicly acknowledged or apologized for misgendering and misnaming transgender victims,” ProPublica reported. But in a recent interview, Sheriff Mike Williams said there had been a “lack of sensitivity.”

As noted by the report, the community pressure may have had an effect with JSO announcing a new group of officers that will serve as liaisons to the LGBT community earlier this month.

“I have been saying for years that misgendering a trans person is an act of violence. When I say that, I am referring to cultural and structural violence,” Cox said in her statement. “The police misgendering and deadnaming trans murder victims as a matter of policy feels like a really good example of that cultural and structural violence.