- Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42, founder of New England Trans Pride and one of the people who launched Miss Trans New England Pageant, was found stabbed and brutally beaten to death in her Massachusetts home.
- Her husband, Mark, 47, pleaded not guilty to murder charge last January 5, days after police said he admitted hitting her with a hammer and stabbing her with a knife.
- A study noted that around 31 to 50 percent of transgender people report domestic violence, a situation that is often overlooked and where they face structural obstacles when seeking for help.
Transgender woman Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, a pageant founder and trans rights activist, was found stabbed and beaten to death in her home in Massachusetts.
According to transgender news posted by the NBC News on January 9, her husband, Mark Steele-Knudslien, pleaded not guilty for the charge of her murder which was filed against him last Monday. He was held without bail.
After an argument
The police said he earlier confessed he hit her with a hammer and stabbed her after an argument.
The website MassLive.com reported that the police said in a statement filed in the Northern Berkshire District Court that Mark, 47, admitted in an interview that he killed his wife. After hitting her with a hammer several times, he stabbed her in the back with a large knife and then wrapped her body in a tarp.
He surrendered voluntarily to the authorities last January 5, confessing that he had done something very bad. He said he snapped when they got into an argument and claimed Christa was always belittling him.
Christa, 42, was well-known for her work in Massachusetts transgender community. The New England Trans Pride, launched a decade ago, was her brainchild.
A. Vickie Boisseau, who officiated her wedding in April last year, said that Christa and other advocates later started the Miss Trans New England Pageant, a beauty pageant and united trans women from across the region.
“Her thing was always that transgender women are beautiful and need a venue for trans women to be seen as beautiful,” said her friend Justin Adkins.
First transgender victim this year
The national LGBT groups GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) had said that Christa is the first transgender person to be killed this year.
Jennifer Wahr, LGBT counselor and advocate at the local anti-domestic violence organization, Elizabeth Freeman Center, said “Every time this happens is a tragedy that leaves a hole in our communities, both locally and nationally.”
“We urge people to advocate within their own communities and nationally for services that provide support for individuals experience intimate partner violence and to always take threats of violence seriously,” she said.
Numbers from HRC revealed that last year was the deadliest for transgender community with at least 28 trans individuals fatally shot or killed by violence.
Transgender individuals and domestic abuse
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law showed in their 2015 report that 31 to 50 percent of transgender people experience violence from their intimate partners in their lifetime.
It also noted that trans people face barriers when seeking help for domestic abuse, including their gender identity being outed and the lack of resources that are LGBT-inclusive.
A 2015 survey of 28,000 transgender people conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) also revealed that 42 percent of its respondents who reported that they had experienced intimate partner violence
NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said that trans women struggle with structural obstacles in getting help and that domestic violence against them is often overlooked.
“There are certainly acts of violence against trans women from strangers, but a lot of the murders that have happened over the last few years have been domestic violence or intimate partner violence,” Keisling said. “Just because it’s your spouse doesn’t mean the case isn’t related to transphobia.”
“These murders are primarily young, low-income transgender women of color, and that’s important to understand,” she added. “Young people, people of color and transgender people are all disrespected, and much more susceptible to violence.”