Rae’Lynn Thomas, a trans woman of color, was murdered in her home by a hateful man.
You can sign the petition asking the City of Columbus to pursue a hate crime investigation in this case here.
As reported by local news and picked up by several national outlets, Rae’Lynn Thomas, a 28-year-old trans woman of color, was murdered last week in Columbus, Ohio. Her murderer, James Allen Byrd, was an ex-boyfriend of her mother’s who lived with the family. He regularly referred to Rae’Lynn as “Satan” and a “devil,” which is what Byrd called Rae’Lynn before shooting her and beating her to death.
Rae’Lynn’s aunt, Shannon Thomas, captured what the Byrd robbed their family of: “He took a light away from all of us that we can’t get back.”
Despite the hateful nature of Byrd’s rhetoric and attack, the Columbus Police Department has neglected to investigate the incident as a hate crime. While Rae’Lynn’s aunt says that she believes the murder was a hate crime in her “heart of hearts,” the local police are not acknowledging the obvious. This is a miscarriage of justice that needs to be addressed by municipal and state leaders.
According to the Ohio State Bar Association’s website, “Ohio law broadly defines hate crimes as criminal acts motivated by prejudice or intolerance and directed toward a member of a gender, racial, religious or social group.” Despite the efforts of state lawmakers to block adding explicit LGBTQ protections to these provisions, interpretation of the law allows for a hate crime investigation based on Rae’Lynn’s womanhood or the classification of the trans community as a social group.
On a personal note, I was raised in the rural area to the southeast of Columbus, roughly 45 minutes from downtown. I grew up there before attending college in Athens and then moving to Columbus for a year before leaving for Chicago, where I’ve come out and now live proudly as a trans woman. A huge part of my motivation to leave Ohio was the lack of legal protections for trans people in the state.
This tragedy hits close to home for me in several ways. I was terrorized and threatened by classmates growing up for my sexual orientation, often through a lens of religious morality similar to the one Byrd used again Rae’Lynn. I can only imagine what could’ve happened to me had I attempted to live my full truth there, and a story like Rae’Lynn’s terrifies me because of my fears about what this injustice could’ve meant for me or my family and what it could mean for the gender non-conforming friends who I still have in Ohio.
That’s why I hope you’ll join me in calling for justice for Rae’Lynn and her family by demanding that the Columbus Police begin and carry out a hate crime investigation related to her murder. The literal demonization of Rae’Lynn by her murderer is a tactic all too common by those who would see our community erased or eradicated, and it’s a clear symptom of his prejudice against her.
Make your voice heard by signing this petition. I would also encourage anyone motivated to do so to share your opinion with the following people and institutions via the contact information below:
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther:
- Phone: 614-645-7671
- Mail: Mayor Andrew J. Ginther / City Hall 2nd Floor / 90 West Broad Street / Columbus, OH 43215
Columbus Division of Police
- Phone: 614-645-4545
- Mail: Columbus Division of Police / 120 Marconi Blvd / Columbus, OH 43215
Thank you for your action in support of the trans community and Rae’Lynn Thomas, may she rest in peace, pride, and power. Please honor Rae’Lynn and her family as this proceeds.
Sign the petition here.