A transgender woman in South Memphis says her work truck was set on fire earlier this week.
Toni Whitfield said she was asleep in her home when she heard her truck’s alarm system go off and smelled smoke.
“Neighbors woke me up and said, ‘Your truck is on fire! Your truck is on fire!’” Whitfield told local FOX affiliate WHBQ in an interview. “I thought it was a game, but no one would kid like that. It actually was on fire. I could see flames. The fire department came, got the water hose and put it out. They said it was arson.”
The truck serves as a vehicle for her lawn care business, Lawn Chicks, which hires transgender women who can’t find work elsewhere because they have been discriminated against by employers. The business has been operational for about five years.
Whitfield says she believes she was targeted because of her gender identity and her practice of hiring trans women as employees.
“I ain’t did nothing to nobody,” Whitfield said. “I’m trying to run a business and make a profit and this right here just burns it all to pieces right here. I think it was a hate crime.”
But she says she will not be deterred by the arson.
“We’re trying to grow so we can continue to hire people,” she said. “It won’t stop it by a long shot. As long as I can push the lawnmower it won’t stop.”
Local activists have since set up a GoFundMe page to help replace the vehicle for Whitfield, who organizers of the fundraiser note runs the city’s only trans-owned and -operated lawn service business. As of Saturday, the page has raised more than $5,000.
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