Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Williamson of Alabama––who dreamed of becoming a cosmetologist one day––was murdered earlier this month. Her body was found buried in Mississippi, making her at least the ninth transgender woman murdered in 2015.  Josh Vallum, an acquaintance of Williamson’s, has been arrested and charged with her murder after admitting to his father that he had killed someone.

Few details of the crime have been released and police are still investigating whether Williamson’s gender identity was a factor in her death.

Williamson appears to have been estranged from her family and was living with a friend, 41-year-old Jeanie Miller, at the time of her death. It’s all too common for transgender young people to face family rejection and homelessness, which can make them more vulnerable to violence.

For Miller, Williamson’s death has been like losing a daughter.

"I couldn't believe it," she told the Sun Herald."I don't want to hear. I miss how she flipped her hair. I miss the crooked teeth with that beautiful smile.... I can smell her. I just keep wanting her to walk through the door.... I'll never have nobody like her again.… She was the most beautiful person."

HRC extends its sincere condolences to Miller and Mercedes’ other friends and loved ones as we continue working with advocates to combat anti-transgender discrimination and violence.

For more information on the anti-transgender violence and the factors that contribute to it, read our report A National Crisis: Anti-Transgender Violence.


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