Another Black trans person has died under mysterious cover and police are trying to piece together what happened. Mel Groves, described on his social media as a 25-year-old transgender Black man, drove himself to Merit Health Hospital on October 11.
According to the Clarion Ledger, he collapsed while getting out of the vehicle. After being transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, he died.
Authorities are currently investigating Groves’ death as a homicide and trying to determine a motive for the shooting and who may have been involved. Advocates, however, have slammed local law enforcement for misgendering Groves.
Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement, “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.”
Kirby also added, “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.”
Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart, however, said gender will not impede the county’s investigation.
“The cause of death is not going to change whether this person is labeled male or female, and I think that what the family is comfortable labeling the individual male or female is what we should go with,” said Grisham-Stewart.
The Knights and Orchids Society, a garden program where Groves was a farmer, wrote on Facebook, “It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Mel Groves. Mel Robert Groves was a 25 year old Black Trans man from Jackson, Mississippi. He was murdered. The news outlets are already misgendering Mel and using his old name.”
The Knights and Orchids Society also confirmed that Groves lived in fear of living his authentic life as a trans man in the southern city.
The post continued, “Please contact Mississippi media outlets and demand that they stop misgendering him. We are offering a reward for any leads and information.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 38 transgender or gender nonconforming people — the vast majority of whom are Black or brown — have been killed in the US so far this year.