Cleveland Police investigate assault of transgender man as hate crime
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - So far, 2021 has been the deadliest year on record for members of the transgender community.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 45 trans people have been murdered in the United States thus far this year, compared to 44 in 2020.
In Cleveland, police are searching for a man accused of attacking a trans man after he got off the bus earlier this month.
Myles Utz, 28, said he is used to walking the streets in fear, but still, he never hides who he is.
The transgender man says he was attacked right after getting off the bus in downtown Cleveland on Lakeside Avenue near East 12th Street, he believes he was targeted.
“I’m still feeling traumatized,” said Utz. “I still have PTSD about it every day. I shake, I get scared.”
On Nov. 16, as Utz was getting off the bus, he told the bus driver he was transgender.
He said when the man behind him overheard him, things took a turn.
“He’s like, ‘I don’t care what you say it’s how you act. You say those kind of words it’ll get you killed out here!’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’”
Utz said then the man followed him and continued to threaten him.
“He just pulled the chain out and got me right in the leg and whipped me right in front of those people,” Utz said. “There was three people at the bus stop.”
Cleveland police said after that, the man grabbed a red bike from the front of the RTA bus and took off.
Police are investigating the assault as a hate crime.
“He was wearing red pants,” recalled Utz. “I remember, zippers going down, black jacket...”
Police on scene said Utz’s ankle was swollen.
Paramedics took him to the hospital to get checked out.
Two weeks later, he still isn’t physically healed, but the mental toll it’s taken on him is far worse.
“Swollen, it’s still swollen I can barely walk,” Utz said. “I had to use air cast for almost four or five days. In the hospital, I couldn’t use it because I almost committed suicide because of it you know I almost killed myself. I almost killed myself because of this guy.”
19 News has learned hate crimes against the transgender community in Cleveland are not an uncommon occurrence.
According to Eliana Turan with the LGBT Center of Cleveland, at least 10 members of the trans community have been violently killed since 2012.
“The records themselves of trans attacks are not complete because the way that the medical examiner records anti-trans attacks and murders is that they don’t record that they were trans so a lot of times I would argue most times actually that gets erased and so what we’re seeing is really the tip of the iceberg in terms of the severity of this crisis,” Turan explained.
Eliana Turan is a transgender woman.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research around anti-trans violence particularly here in Cleveland and what I have found is, unfortunately, Cleveland has a very high rate of anti-trans violence,” Turan said. “We are actually a national epicenter.”
Turan is also a member of the board for the LGBT Center of Cleveland.
“I’ve known so many trans people who you know would walk in the center or you know approach me and they would share stories about getting beat up, getting robbed, getting jumped, being threatened, getting stalked,” Turan said. “That, unfortunately, is just part of daily life as a trans person in general and unfortunately especially here in Cleveland.”
The center is one of the few places Utz still feels safe.
“I don’t even like to walk the streets,” he said. “I am afraid to walk the streets. I’m only here in this area cause I know it’s safe cause I know people around here.”
Data submitted to the FBI by Cleveland police shows there were 17 hate crimes committed against trans people in 2020, and a total of 26 hate crimes committed against the LGBT community last year.
“I could shed a tear, but you know what I’m a man, a trans man and I’m gonna be strong for people and be strong for those who don’t have a voice who can’t speak who won’t speak up because they’ve been assaulted and been beaten,” Utz said.
19 News learned Ohio currently does not have a law on the books that specifically protects people from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Discrimination itself plays a key role in the violence, you know... If you’re shut out of gainful employment, if you’re shut out of safe housing, you are then ending up in situations that make you so much more vulnerable to violent attacks,” Turan said.
A law that would ban this kind of discrimination in our state has been proposed more than 10 times in the last 20 years, and it is once again making its way through the Ohio legislature.
Advocates are hopeful that this time around, it will pass.
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