When a transgender victim of a head blow succumbed to their injuries on May 4, the NYPD identified them as a “female” and later gave their name as “Brenda Bostick.”
Written statements from elected officials and victims’ advocacy groups – as well as media reports, including several in Gay City News – identified Bostick as a 59-year-old transgender woman who lived on West 25th Street in Chelsea.
Since then, however, people who knew Bostick, including several social service providers, came forward, on social media and in other ways, to say Bostick identified as a trans man with the first name Kenneth.
Gay City News reached out to several social service providers who spoke about Bostick on social media but has not heard back from them.
Several LGBTQ advocacy groups, meanwhile, trying to clarify the issue of the victim’s gender identity, are saying that Bostick identified alternately as Kenneth and Brenda, perhaps depending on the circumstances of the situation they found themself in or perhaps due to the fluidity of their gender identity.
“We cannot know this person’s gender identity,” said Pony Knowles, the national engagement manager at SAGE, or Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders. “The only person who can really tell us had their voice extinguished by this crime.”
According to Knowles, groups including SAGE and the New York City Anti-Violence Project joined together with transgender leaders to discuss how to address the question of identifying Bostick’s gender and honoring their memory.
Knowles acknowledged the statements of several individuals who provided social services to Bostick, but explained that conflicting information from them is not altogether surprising. Knowles pointed to an insight from LaLa Zannell, the lead organizer at the Anti-Violence Project, that “trans people are required to navigate different gender expressions to access different social services.”
The result, Knowles said, is that “we are forced to sit with the very uncomfortable feeling of not being able to honor the victim.”
Knowles said that during the meeting of trans leaders, Elizabeth Rivera from the Latino Commission on AIDS, recommended referring to the victim not by first name but with the title “Mx” to distinguish from Mr. or Ms.
“Using both names would also be appropriate,” Knowles said. “But using just Kenneth or Brenda wouldn’t be.”
On its website, the Anti-Violence Project wrote, “AVP has learned of the death of Mx Bostick a 59-year-old Black transgender person in Chelsea. Since issuing our alert, we have learned that Mx Bostick identified as transgender, and used alternating names to identify themselves. To honor that, we are using Mx, an honorific that does not connote gender.”
That statement emphasized the importance of Bostick identifying as a transgender person and noted that the victim’s death is the 10th known slaying of a trans person in the US in 2017.
Earlier this week, Gay City News reported that prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office expect to charge a 26-year-old man, Joseph Griffin, in Bostick’s killing. The victim suffered a “blunt impact” blow to their head at about 10:30 p.m. on April 25 outside 343 Seventh Avenue, between 29th and 30th Streets. Taken by EMS to Bellevue Hospital, the victim died nine days later.
The New York City medical examiner’s office, on May 7, ruled that Bostick’s death was a homicide and resulted from “complications of blunt impact injury of head.”
Griffin was arrested shortly after Bostick was taken to Bellevue on a felony criminal mischief complaint of jumping onto the hood of a taxi near 352 Seventh Avenue, across the street from where the victim was found, and smashing in its windshield.
Griffin was arraigned on that charge on May 6, with bail set at $25,000, though prosecutors asked for bail of $250,000.
According to police, Griffin is homeless, though some press reports say he once lived at the Bowery Residents' Committee shelter at 127 West 25th Street, where Bostick lived.
The NYPD said the killing is not being investigated as a hate crime but rather as a “dispute between neighbors.”
Naila Siddiqui, Griffin’s Legal Aid attorney, did not return a call seeking comment.
People with information about the attack on Bostick can contact the NYPD at 800-577-8477 or in Spanish at 888-577-4782.
A vigil will be held at 6 p.m. at the site of the assault on Bostick, and SAGE will host mourners in its offices one block below on the seventh floor at 305 Seventh Avenue.