A Transgender Texas Woman’s Murder and What It Says About Us

The football player, his transgender partner, and the killing that’s the talk of Tyler, Texas.

By David Brown and Rhonda FanningFebruary 11, 2015 10:45 am|

More details have emerged involving the death of a transgender woman near Tyler, Texas. Officers have taken a former Texas College football player into custody after he allegedly shoot the woman during an altercation.

A new arrest affidavit reveals details surrounding the murder of Ty Underwood, a 24-year-old transgender woman found dead in her car in late January.  Police arrested Carlton Champion Jr, when cell phone records revealed the two were to meet the night of Underwood’s death. A series of text messages apparently show that Underwood and Champion were exchanging sexual favors for a number of weeks before Underwood attempted to break up with Champion.

When police questioned Champion about the incident they say he became uncooperative and defensive. Investigators learned that Underwood had revealed her previous sexual identity to Champion the morning of her death. Champion has since been charged with first-degree murder and is currently being held on a $1 million bond. The crime will unlikely be classified as a hate crime since the two were in a relationship.

Reactions from social media haven’t been too pretty either:

“No other choice.”

“I don’t really see the issue here, LOL”

“Seems legit”

“That’s all he did?”

These sort of responses constitute the majority of what we’ve seen on social media. In crimes like these one generally sees condemnation of the killer but, in this case, it seems like many folks relate more to the accused – or at least somehow find justification for his actions.

Texas Standard speaks with Shane Whalley, a social worker and former Senior Program Coordinator at the Gender and Sexuality Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Whalley says talking about gender identity can be a sensitive subject, but one that needs to be talked about when the time comes.

“I believe that it’s nobody’s business until we’re about to get to a point where it’s necessary to know… It’s not until my body becomes an issue that I think that becomes important,” Whalley says.

While this case is not being treated as a hate crime, Whalley expresses confusion as to why.

“It wasn’t a crime out of kindness, right?… And it doesn’t seem like it’s being framed as domestic violence, right?… For me, if someone is murdered around their identity – that’s a hate crime. Whether I’ve known you forever or I just met you five minutes ago,” Whalley says.