It’s been two years since Deoni Jones, a 23-year-old transgender woman, was stabbed in the head and killed at a Southeast DC bus stop. And though her family and friends are seeking justice through the courts, they are also taking steps to prevent other transgender residents in DC from being victims of violence.
On Saturday, about 100 family members, friends, and supporters gathered for a memorial and rally to launch the Deoni Jones Foundation. The event was held at the St. Luke’s Center across the street from where Jones was murdered and where a memorial was held last year.
On February 12, 2012, Jones was waiting at a bus stop on the 4900 block of East Capitol Street Northeast. She was on her way to visit friends when she was stabbed in the head by a stranger.
Her family believes that the murder was a hate crime because the suspect, 55-year-old Gary Montgomery, could tell Jones was a transgender woman.
Montgomery is expected to stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder while armed in October. He has not been charged with a hate crime.
Alvin Bethea, 56, has launched the Deoni Jones Foundation in memory of his daughter and to support the LGBTQ community. He intends to work with D.C. council members and LGBTQ supporters to prevent future violence against transgender residents in D.C.
“They can put the resources, the programs and the laws in place to prevent the kind of thing that happened to Deoni from happening in the future,” Bethea said.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, transgender people have been murdered on an average of more than one person per month. They also state that transgender people face an unconscionable level of bias-motivated violence, especially for young, low-income transgender women of color.
Bethea said Jones always knew who she was but struggled to find her place in society; dealing with constant discrimination and lack of equal opportunities.
“Deoni was always that way,” Bethea said. “I remember I used to try and teach her how to box and how to play baseball but she wanted no part in it. Deoni would faithfully come into his mother’s and my bedroom and put on her perfume and they would discuss which one smelled the best. We accepted her for who she was.”
Of violence faced by transgender people, activist Bobbi Stragg said at Jones’ memorial Saturday, “If what we are facing goes unchallenged then it’s like it never happened.”