A ban on gatherings during COVID-19 outbreak pushed mourners online to remember Johanna Metzger

By Jeff Truesdell
April 15, 2020 05:56 PM
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Johanna Metzger
Credit: Facebook

A transgender woman stabbed to death on a Baltimore street Saturday was mourned three days later in a community-organized online vigil meant to overcome restrictions on public gatherings amid the coronavirus.

The victim, Johanna Metzger, is believed to be the sixth transgender or gender non-conforming person killed nationwide this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and the 10th transgender woman killed in Baltimore over the past 10 years, says a Facebook post by Baltimore Safe Haven, an LGBTQ center that confirmed her death and organized Tuesday’s virtual vigil on Zoom.

Metzger’s murder also was confirmed by the Baltimore City LGBTQ Affairs division in the office of Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

“We are heartbroken to report another trans woman has lost her life to violence here in Baltimore,” said a statement from the city agency. “Today, we lift up the name and honor the life of Johanna Metzger. We wish comfort to those whose life she touched.”

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Few other details were available about the attack on Metzger, who was from Philadelphia.

“Thank you for doing this,” Metzger’s mother, Christine Marro, wrote on Facebook to the vigil’s organizers. “I can’t be there physically because we are making arrangements in Philadelphia. Jo was not attacked because of who she was; she was not the target, wrong place, wrong time.”

Activists nonetheless mourned Metzger’s passing by placing it in a larger context.

“The trans community — LQBTQ non-conforming community — matters and they need to step up and address this throughout the city,” said Safe Haven founder Iya Dammons, reports Baltimore TV station WMAR. “This has gone on for way too long before COVID-19. Ten years, ten bodies! Baltimoreans are you listening? This, it’s a lot.”

Metzger, whose mother described her as a college graduate who had taught herself to play several musical instruments, was visiting a recovery center in Baltimore when she was killed, according to WMAR.

In 2019, “at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means,” reports the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ-focused civil rights organization. “We say ‘at least’ because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported.”

An additional statement from Baltimore Safe Haven, which noted that 35 people participated in the online vigil, stated: “Please Baltimore community stay woke vigilant during the pandemic — mental health, substance abuse, and violence for our community is at a all-time high.”

The mayor’s LGBTQ affairs division said it would work with Safe Haven and police to coordinate a response.

Anyone with information is asked to text police at 443-902-4824 or email HomicideTips@baltimorepolice.org.