A Dallas judge will be forced to rule on whether Muhlaysia Booker, a Black trans woman from Dallas who was killed in May, will be referred to as a male or a female during her assault trial, KDFW reports.
The decision comes as the lawyers for Edward Thomas, the man accused of assaulting Booker weeks before she was murdered, argued that Booker should be identified by her birth name on the formal indictment, a complete and deliberate dismissal of the life Booker lived as a trans woman. The incident was filmed as Booker was assaulted in an apartment complex parking lot as witnesses looked on. Thomas is scheduled to go to trial in October and faces an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge.
Thomas’ lawyers contend that the jury will be swayed to bias against men abusing women and want Booker to be addressed as the name that appears on her birth certificate and other submitted legal documentation, “P. Booker,” short for “Pierre.”
“Pierre Booker is legally a male by gender. To name him ‘Muhlaysia’ Booker could have the jury wrongfully conclude that Pierre is female…This is prejudicial against our client, who is male,” Thomas’ lawyers argued in a memo after the presiding Judge Hector Garza, ruled that Booker’s first name would appear as Muhlaysia in the indictment.
Michael Levine, an attorney not associated with the trial argues in favor of Muhlaysia.
“I think she’s entitled to go by the female pronoun, to go by her chosen female name,” Levine said. “I just think it would be an issue they’d be concerned about if all the documentation identifies her as a male, as Pierre.”
Kendrell Lavar Lyles, the man accused of murdering Booker, was arrested in June. Police believe Lyles may have had involvement in the death of a second Black trans woman killed in Dallas, Chynal Lindsey.
Muhlaysia’s autonomy is being threatened as prosecutors argue to disavow her wishes by referring to her as her birth name. It is a battle that many trans men and women know all too well, the lack of acknowledgement of their existence as individuals.