Lawyers for a person being indicted in an aggravated assault case against black transgender woman Muhlaysia Booker are requesting that she be deadnamed and misgendered during the trial.
In May, Booker’s death gained national attention after the 23-year-old became one of the 16 Black trans women killed in 2019. Just a month before she was shot to death, however, a video of the 23-year-old being beaten went viral. Edward Thomas is being indicted for the latter crime, and the trial will commence in October.
This week, Judge Hector Garza of Texas’ 195th Criminal District Court will order on what name will appear on the indictment — whether it will be the identity friends and community members knew her as or one that undermines her identity as a trans woman.
The decision will be the second time that Garza has to make a decision on the matter. He initially decided Booker was to be referred to as Muhlaysia.
The defense attorneys have protested.
Muhlaysia is “legally a male by gender,” the attorneys claimed according to Fox 4 News. “To name him ‘Muhlaysia’ Booker could have the jury wrongfully conclude that [he] is female … This is prejudicial against our client, who is male.”
The attorneys also point out that Booker’s name was never legally changed.
The name change process for trans people is especially difficult. In Texas, there is no regulated way for trans people to change government documents like driver’s licenses and birth certificates, according to Texas Observer. Being able to get a gender marker change relies solely on “getting in front of a friendly judge,” says Houston attorney Katie Sprinkle.
These structural issues likely interrupted Booker from getting a legal name change and gender marker change.
How Booker is presented in this case is important. Not only are the defense judges arguing to allow for blatant transphobia to be allowed into the court record, but they are doing so for the specific reason of altering how the jury views what took place. If they are allowed to do so, it could hinder the legal team from prosecuting on Booker’s behalf. A suspect has been identified, arrested, and charged in Booker’s murder investigation as well.