A vicious attack of a transgender woman in Jackson Heights Sunday morning spurred a community to hold a rally in support of her and trans people throughout New York City.
Kathy Perez, 35, was attacked outside of her Jackson Heights home at 4 a.m. on Sunday, where she was repeatedly struck in the head and face and thrown to the ground. Perez is currently recovering at Elmhurst Hospital.
Police initially investigated the attack as a hate crime but later said it was domestic abuse since Perez knew the suspect. However, Jennifer Lopez, executive director of Everything Transgender in NYC, said she visited Perez in the hospital on Monday when she was beginning to wake up after suffering from head trauma. Perez was adamant that she did not know her attacker, Lopez said.
“I was in the hospital with Kathy Perez when she started talking. I was in the hospital with three other people and I can tell you when I walked out of the hospital…on Monday the NYPD was calling this a domestic violence situation,” Lopez said. “What does that mean? That means that NYPD didn’t even talk to Kathy Perez about the situation before calling it a domestic violence situation.”
Several transgender women shared similar experiences of abuse with the crowd. Paula Hill, a member of Make the Road New York, was walking on Roosevelt Avenue and 74th Street when a man grabbed her, put her into a taxi cab and told her she had to do as he said because she was transgender. They were driven across the Queensboro Bridge and once across the bridge, Hill was able to push the man, open the door and flee.
Hill said she was too afraid to report it to the police.
Chair of the Human Rights Commission Carmelyn Malalis encouraged the transgender community to reach out to her office and report any abuse.
“The New York City Commission on Human Rights is here to support you. We want to be there for you to help stem the violence before it happens,” Malalis said. “We want you to be vigilant in your communities. If you see acts of discrimination, if you see acts of harassment we want you to report it to the commission.”
Several politicians, including Public Advocate Leticia James and Assemblymen Francisco Moya and Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, and organizations such as Make the Road New York and Queens Pride also attended the rally to condemn the attacks.
Alan Reiff, co-chair of Queens Pride, said that the attack brings him back 25 years to the beginnings of the parade, which was started to speak out against the murder of Julio Rivera.
“This type of act will not define the Queens community. We are much better than this. This is not who we are,” Reiff said. “It would be nice that the perpetrator gets the full extent of the law and New York City and the rest of the country will see that if you do a biased hate crime against a trans person no one will stand for that.”