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HARTFORD – Jessica Mercado would have turned 30 this year.
In 2003 she was stabbed to death and her body was draped across her mattress before the killers charred her New Haven apartment.
Mercado’s murder is considered by many to be a hate crime, as she’s one of 539 transgender individuals to have been killed since 1970. Three of those victims, including Mercado, were murdered in Connecticut.
On Friday night, Connecticut’s transgender community and its allies came together for the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance to honor their transgender brothers and sisters who have been murdered.
The Rev. Patrice Smith, of the Saving Our Kids from the Streets organization, told the small crowd that their procession to the capitol sent a strong message to state lawmakers.
“Continue to speak your voice. We have to overcome this,” she said. “Everyone here knows someone who has died a violent death.”
Frank O’Gorman, of Connecticut TransAdvocacy, said all violence is senseless and goes beyond physical brutality.
“Violence is not being able to keep one’s job, or stay in one’s apartment if one is transgender,” he said.
At the rally, speakers called for the passage of a state law that would ban discrimination based on gender identity or expression in housing and employment.
O’Gorman said the transgender community isn’t going anywhere until such a law is passed and warned that the group would be back in the spring.
Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy was one of two politicians who spoke at the event. He said Connecticut has made tremendous progress in the area of equality, but said there’s still more work to do. He said the transgender community continues to be misunderstood.
“The problem is, you’re too small of a group,” he said. “You need strong allies … we need to pass (equal rights) laws for you, your friends and your families.”
Malloy, who may soon run for governor, vowed to continue fighting for equal rights even after he leaves his post as Stamford mayor next week.
“Why is it that the state I was born and raised in … is not leading this fight?.” he said.
At a service following the rally, at Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford, Rev. George A. Chien prayed that one day the world would be a safe place for all his transgender peers. He added that the victims the group paused to honor on the Transgender Day of Remembrance is a harsh reminder that it’s still dangerous to be different.