Transgender woman found murdered in Chicago

by Joseph Erbentraut

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday July 1, 2010

The murder of a 28-year-old transgender woman on the South Side has left the city's trans residents feeling sad, frustrated and vulnerable.

The scant details available regarding the life of Sandy Woulard, born Credale, have only compounded those feelings. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, a passing motorist found her laying in the street near a church located at 7500 S. Halsted in Hamilton Park around 3 a.m. on Monday, June 21. Sandy was pronounced dead at 3:45 a.m. at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

Activists said mainstream media accounts of the crime, which described the victim as "a man dressed in women's clothing," only added insult to injury. They say this description does not match the life she led. And it only contribute to harmful stereotypes about trans people some ultimately use to justify violence against them.

Owen Daniel-McCarter, an attorney with the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, said he had worked with several people who knew Sandy; and they confirmed she had identified as a trans woman for as long as they had known her-in one case, that was eight years.

Daniel-McCarter said the area where Sandy was found is known within trans circles for prostitution. Other sources confirmed Woulard had been arrested several times for prostitution. Consistent with the police report, Sandy was found with money in her purse, it appears likely a client committed the crime with a motive beyond robbery.

A coalition of trans activists representing the Illinois Gender Advocates, Center on Halsted, Howard Brown Health Center, Genderqueer Chicago and other groups gathered last week to discuss the murder and consider a community response.

Candice V. Hart, vice-chair of Illinois Gender Advocates, said the coalition hoped to "translate our anger into action" by working more closely with the city's police department and media on sensitivity around trans issues. She also advocates for allowing the police the space and time they need to complete their investigation.

Lisa Gilmore, director of education and victim advocacy at the Center on Halsted, welcomes debate around some of the issues that likely made Sandy vulnerable to extreme violence: Living in poverty while facing lofty societal barriers to steady employment, education, gender-affirming health care, a social circle or even reliable housing-many shelters are sex-segregated and are not safe places for trans people who seek refuge in them.

"This is another person who has been killed because someone made that choice and felt it was ok to be violent toward them," Gilmore told EDGE. "[Sandy was] disposable to them."

Daniel-McCarter added the commonalities between Sandy's and other victims of trans violence deserve a closer look. The overwhelming majority of trans murder victims - including 26-year-old Dana A. "Chanel" Larkin, who was murdered in Milwaukee on May 7-are of color and many are involved in sex work in order to survive.

Andrew Olacirequi allegedly shot Larkin three times in the head after she revealed to him she was trans-he had offered her $20 to perform a sex act. Prosecutors have charged Olacirequi with first-degree reckless homicide. And he could face up to 65 years in prison.

But amid the tragic circumstances of Sandy's death, Daniel-McCarter also encouraged other activists to recognize the activism in their everyday lives.

"The mainstream dialogue forgets that the everyday lives of trans women like Sandy are an act of resilience and activism," Daniel-McCarter added. "So many forces are telling her to disappear and just go away, that she's not wanted in this world. It's true this is a tragedy she was killed, other folks have died and will die in the future, but let's not forget to honor that they are such fighters and are so fierce and fabulous."

Sandy will be remembered in a funeral service scheduled for Saturday, July 3, from 2:30-7 p.m. at Midwest Memorial Chapel, 5040 S. Western Ave.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to to read more of his work.