NYC Transgender Woman Dies After Being Beaten Brain-Dead in Homophobic Attack

Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman was taken off life support Thursday at Harlem hospital following a weekend attack police are investigating as a hate crime, DNA Info reports:

NettlesNettles was out with several other transgender women at 11 p.m. Saturday when she ran across a group of men near West 148th Street and Eighth Avenue, police said. When the man realized that Nettles and her friends were transgender, they began throwing punches and yelling homophobic slurs, cops said.

Nettles, who also went by Vaughn Nettles and Alon Nettles, was taken to Harlem Hospital, but could not be revived, cops said.

A 20-year-old man, whose identity was not immediately released, was arrested in connection with the attack, police said. He was initially charged with misdemeanor assault, but cops said they expected to upgrade the charges on Friday.

Nettles was a fashion design student, according to her LinkedIn page.

This week, Towleroad reported on the attack in Long Island City of a straight, interracial couple who had just left a gay bar with a friend. And last week a gay couple was brutally beaten in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood.

We also reported that currently 68 anti-gay bias attacks have been reported in NYC this year, a number that is already well beyond last year's total of 54.


  1. Bill Perdue says

    Trans people, especially our young people of color, are the one TBGL group that suffers the greatest relative harassment, discrimination and violence.

  2. Brian1 says

    How could the perpetrator have been charged initially with a misdemeanor? If the attack was bad enough to put her in the hospital in critical condition, surely it merited a tougher charge from the onset?

  3. Jeff says

    This is so sad. She was a beautiful young girl, may she rest in peace and I hope her death is not in vain but will bring justice to her and protection to others in the future.

  4. ratbastard says

    West 148th and 8th? You mean Frederick Douglass Boulevard? Harlem for non-NYC folks. Amazing stuff like this can happen in places that have a relatively high police presence.

    Think twice about living in ‘gentrifying’ formerly ‘ghetto’ neighborhoods, or near any housing project. Manhattan’s problem is housing projects are all over the map, even in ‘good’ neighborhoods.

  5. Zeta says

    That dude is pretty. He shouldn’t have been killed, whether he was ugly or pretty. There is no moral reason for guys to kill other guys just because the first set was fooled into thinking the second set was female. It’s a sad story.

    @Hagatha, what if being armed goes against the stereotype of ‘being female’ as being weak and helpless? To feel more like a woman, you have to feel less empowered in everything except eye shadow and tuck maintenance? I don’t know.

  6. Francis #1 says

    She wasn’t a dude, Zeta.

    Another horrendous tragedy in New York City. RIP Islan Nettles and my heart goes out to her friends and family. New York City has a homophobic/transphobic problem. Time to really address it, once and for all.

  7. Rafael says

    This is horrible and senseless loss of life. People don’t seem to be capable to distinguish trans from gays, and much less understand either of them. We don’t help the situation when we group trans and gays and confuse transphobic attacks for homophobic ones. If we don’t have clarity, how can we solicit it from others?

  8. Chang says

    @Ratbastard – you are spot on. I live in the South End of Boston, which overall is nice place and gay friendly. But unfortunately there are housing projects littered throughout the neighborhood. Whenever there’s violence, murder, assaults, robberies – 99% of the time, it’s traced back to the projects. Be aware of your surroundings and take precaution!

  9. NYCer says

    “West 148th Street”, “A 20-year-old man, whose identity was not immediately released.”

    Translation for those living in reality: a young black guy from Harlem. (Shocker).

  10. Derrick from Philly says

    @”Translation for those living in reality: a young black guy from Harlem. (Shocker).”

    Nobody thought that there was any deception going on except you.

    And oh, honey, you couldn’t imagine what slurs I have for you.

  11. HS says

    Many of the comments here are so racist and classist. I live in Harlem (as do many queer, hetero, rich, poor, black, brown, asian, trans people), near the ‘projects’ (which by the way have historically been a good thing for the poor in NYC). Did everyone miss the part where numerous attacks have also happened in the West Village, Chelsea and MSG? Really, no part in NYC is completely safe for queers, even today in 2013.

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