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Reports: Trans Woman Brutally Beaten in Wyoming

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday July 22, 2021

Please note: The following story contains graphic language that might be triggering for some readers.

A transgender woman who was allegedly beaten and kicked repeatedly in the head by at least one boot-wearing assailant said she is convinced the assault was driven by anti-trans hatred, local outlet Oil City News reports.

Rilee Bumgardner-Shipley described the July 15 attack as "terrifying," and said there was "no question" that the assailants targeted her out of "homophobia or transphobia."

Local newspaper the Casper Star-Tribune reported that Bumgardner-Shipley had noticed one of the male suspects that morning at a dog park near her apartment building. The man hurled misogynist and racial epithets at her, she said, calling her a "bitch" and the "N-word" repeatedly, even though she is Caucasian.

Though Bumgardner-Shipley did not know the man, when she told her landlord about him the landlord "knew exactly who she was referring to," the Star-Tribune detailed.

Bumgardner-Shipley says the encounter has left her shaken. "I went to work for the afternoon and I felt really anxious and on edge all day, like something bad was going to happen," she recalled.

That night, at about 11:30, Shipley took her dog back to the park, where she saw the same man, this time accompanied by another male. He resumed harassing her, again hurling epithets.

That's when the attack took place, with at least one of the men kicking her in the head with booted feet that left Bumgardner-Shipley with multiple skull injuries, including a "caved-in cheekbone" and "a fractured eye socket," Oil City News detailed.

A GoFundMe page seeking to raise $50,000 for Bumgardner-Shipley's medical bills denounced the "vicious" beating.

No arrests have been made in the case, though news reports referenced "a neighbor" as being a suspect. Police are conducting an investigation.

Wyoming is one of only three states that has no hate crimes law, despite having been the state where gay college student Matthew Shepard was beaten by two assailants and left for dead outside of the city of Laramie in 1998. Shepard was tied to a fence, where he was spotted hours later by a passerby. He died in hospital six days later from traumatic head injuries.

More recently, the state has drawn national attention thanks to a homophobic T-shirt, bearing the slogan "In Wyoming we have a cure for AIDS - we shoot fuckin' faggots," that a bar in Cheyenne had been selling. In another recent development, death threats against a transgender magician in Gillette led the performer to cancel a planned show.

"I came out as a trans person a little over four years ago," Bumgardner-Shipley told the press. "About that time I was made aware of a saying: This is Wyoming, we don't take offense to gays, we take gays to fences."

Still, she said, the shocking attack could have a positive outcome.

"When I was growing up I didn't know what transgender means, let alone that I could be that," she recalled. "So if I can be that so someone else can be like, 'Whoa, hey, that's me,' then this is all worth it."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.