The Pride Center of Vermont is holding a vigil Wednesday for Amos Beede, the transgender man who died of injuries sustained in an attack on May 23 in Burlington.
Executive Director Kim Fountain spoke with VPR about the memorial for Beede and the trans community in Vermont.
Audio for this piece will be posted.
Fountain says members of the community and the Pride Center came together to plan the memorial service for Beede after learning of the attack.
"Amos was an amazing ambassador," says Fountain. "He went all over the place, talked to all kinds of folks and people loved him."
The Burlington Police don't think Beede was killed because he was transgender, but rather that there was a dispute at the homeless encampment where he sometimes stayed.
"While the police don't suspect you know that Amos is targeted based solely on the fact that he was trans — it's a very different understanding when you go from a legal perspective compared with a more community-based perspective," Fountain explains. "So one of the things that we know for instance is that part of the dispute that was going on [was] one of the tents that was being targeted, two gay men were in it."
"While Amos may not have specifically been targeted around being trans, there were anti-LGBTQ parts to that targeting," Fountain added.
Fountain says she doesn't know enough about the case to say if police made the right decision in not charging this as a hate crime or bias incident.
"I would say that because given the strict legal definition, I can see why they chose not to do that," Fountain says. "But as a community, we also do want to acknowledge the fact that as a trans man who was visiting two of his gay friends there very well may have been bias involved in that attack."
On the environment for transgender Vermonters:
Fountain says that it can take many families time to get used to a transition, as they get a handle on new pronouns and gender markers.
"Amos's family is very loving but a lot of other families just don't get past that," Fountain says, "they will throw their children out of the house. If you look at a lot of the statistics in a lot of the urban areas, a lot of those youth have been thrown out of their homes from rural areas as well as the city they might be in because there parents are being transphobic."
"There's a lot of bias that comes into play here," Fountain says, "and there are a lot of different national reports out there that have done wide-ranging surveys where they have found that trans individuals suffer much much more violence and discrimination than other parts of the LGBT community."
Fountain says another factor for Vermonters is what she calls the "small town effect."
"You know a lot of people, you know they've known you since you were a toddler a lot of times they know your family," Fountain explains. "They just have an intimacy in your life. People really just know you and even if you go a few times over, they still know you well."
Fountain says health care is another issue for rural Vermonters. "If they want to [get] gender confirmation surgeries, trying to access that here in Vermont is difficult because it's often times a specialty," Fountain says. "Or they might have doctors who don't understand how to do some of these surgeries or they may there may be some bias nationally."
Fountain says in addition to "making certain that the community is safe" the Pride Center's main priorities at the moment are ensuring access to housing, health care and job security.