In mid-July, a 20 year-old transgender sex worker was shot dead in Georgetown, Guyana, apparently following an altercation with a client, which, some reports say, may have been a case of mistaken identity.
The tragedy led to some very mixed messaging in local news coverage. Despite acknowledging that the victim, known as Nephi, identified as transgender, several local media outlets used male pronouns when reporting on the case. ‘Male sex worker gunned down,’ wrote Guyana Times, ‘Male sex worker shot dead by angry client’, said Kaietur News Online. News Source Guyana, on the other hand, respected Nephi’s preferred pronoun but reported on her occupation using inverted commas: ‘Transgender sex worker gunned down during late night ‘business’’, read the headline, before continuing to say she ‘was shot dead late last evening while plying her ‘sex trade’ in the Carmichael Street area.’
Kaietur News Online reports that, when Nephi was shot, other sex workers rushed to help. Nephi was described as a caring and friendly individual, who had only been in commercial sex work for about eight or nine months. Another friend described the 20-year-old as helpful and sociable but shared that Nephi complained of instances whereby men would refuse to pay for their services. No arrests have yet been made, but police have been examining surveillance footage of the incident and, Guyana Times reports, they are in possession ‘of an image of a person of interest pulled from surveillance footage’.
In an interview with Guyana Times, a sex worker advocate named Otisha reacted to the murder by calling on Guyana’s new government to intervene and ensure commercial sex workers and those in the LGBT community are treated fairly.
‘Seeing that we have a new Administration,’ she said, ‘I think certain things should be put in place where gay people are concerned, because at the end of the day we feel it, we feel the pain cast by society. I think gay people votes count. I think every gay person’s vote counts… so I hope that the new Administration will put things in place and put certain policies…,’
Just two days prior to Nephi’s murder, members of the transgender community held a candlelit vigil in Georgetown to mark the first anniversary of the murder of two transgender sex workers who were stabbed to death on the streets of Georgetown on July 20th 2014.