The brutal murder of a transgender woman in Ridgewood last week is sending another chill through Queens’ LGBT community less than six months after a hate-motivated assault in College Point sparked outrage and protests.
Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, 29, was found stripped and strangled in her 62nd Street apartment on March 30.
On Friday, a makeshift memorial of candles and bouquets stood outside the building as a lonely monument to Gonzalez-Andujar’s life in Ridgewood. Neighbors passed by with curious glances — expressing sorrow over the slaying but admitting they didn’t know much about the woman who once shared their courtyard.
At a neighborhood deli, workers said the slain woman was an infrequent visitor, occasionally making late-night cigarette runs to the store.
“I knew she was a man,” one employee said. “I stay away from people like that.”
Authorities believe that Gonzalez-Andujar, whose given name is Edelbuerto, was targeted by a current or former lover, citing building surveillance video showing a man leaving the apartment around the time of the murder, according to published reports.
And while police are still investigating whether the killing was motivated by anti-homosexual bias, the borough’s LGBT advocates were quick to condemn the attack.
Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said that he and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), both openly homosexual, were closely monitoring the NYPD investigation. Should authorities confirm that hate played a role in the slaying, Dromm promised a strong reaction from the city’s LGBT community.
“We can not allow them to intimidate us,” he said, adding that violence was too often used as a tool to marginalize LGBT residents.
Despite polls showing increasing acceptance of alternative sexualities nationwide, success has been a double-edged sword for the LGBT community. FBI statistics show a steady rise in hate crimes against queers as vanishing social stigmas make it easier for LGBT individuals to come out.
Crimes motivated by sexual-orientation bias rose from 1,512 in 2007 to 1,706 in 2008 — a figure representing more than 17 percent of all hate crimes nationwide, according to the federal agency’s latest report. And the problem is particularly acute for transgender persons, according to Queens Pride House.
“Transgender women everywhere are socially marginalized and extremely vulnerable to hate crimes.On average, a transgender person is murdered once a month in the United States — an extraordinarily high rate of violence,” Erica Sullivan, a health referral specialist with QPH said. “As organizations serving the transgender community, we are very concerned about the safety of transgender women within our community.”
Gonzalez-Andujar’s murder comes less than a year after two separate attacks on transgender women in the borough. Leslie Mora, 30, was beaten in Jackson Heights last June by two men allegedly shouting anti-gay slurs. Carmella Etienne, 22, was later attacked in St. Albans in July by men who allegedly threatened to slit her throat.
Dromm said that many in the transgender community are forced into isolation because of a difficult balancing act — weighing desires to fully embrace their new sexual identities against disclosing their past to others, which can leave them vulnerable to discrimination. He said individuals that don’t reveal their birth genders are often the victims of abuse when those close to them discover the truth.
A police investigation into Gonzalez-Andujar’s death is ongoing. Anyone with information on the killing can confidentially call the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1 (800) 577-TIPS (8477) or text information to 274637 (CRIMES), followed by TIP577.