- January 9, 2017
HRC is distressed to learn that India Monroe, a transgender woman, was killed December 21 in Newport News, Virginia. Mic reports that coverage of Monroe’s death identified her by the wrong name and gender. As a result, she had not been counted among 21 other known transgender homicide victims of 2016.
Monroe’s body was found in a home along with that of Mark Gray, age 37. Both had apparently died of gunshot wounds. Law enforcement is investigating the deaths as a domestic incident, Mic reported.
The delay in identifying Monroe as a transgender woman underscores the fact that transgender murder victims are systematically undercounted. There is no national system tracking whether homicide victims are transgender, so advocates rely on media reports to count how many transgender people are killed each year. In some cases, law enforcement or local media misidentify a victim’s gender—as they did with Monroe. In others, they may report the victim’s gender correctly but not disclose the fact that they were transgender.
The news of Monroe’s killing surfaced alongside several other tragic reports. On Thursday, HRC learned that transgender woman Mesha Caldwell had been murdered near Canton, Mississippi. On Friday night, another transgender woman, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, was found dead in her apartment in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Also on Friday, Sean Hake, a transgender man in Sharon, Pennsylvania, died after he was shot by police responding to a 911 call from his mother. HRC is closely monitoring details of that case as they emerge.
Accurate reporting on a victim’s transgender identity is often the result of advocacy by their family and friends, so victims whose communities are less supportive of their gender transition are less likely to have their identities reported accurately. Monroe’s friends said her funeral did not reflect her gender identity, though she’d identified as a woman for years. One friend, Brittany Marquis, said she wasn’t sure whether Monroe told her family that she was transgender.
Though advocates don’t know exactly how many transgender people are murdered each year, it’s clear that transgender women of color—especially black women, like Monroe—are disproportionately targeted. In 2016, more than 75 percent of the victims HRC identified were black, and nearly 9 in 10 were women. Though the circumstances of their deaths varied, Monroe’s killing is among several that law enforcement described as domestic. In March, Quartney Davia Dawsonn-Yochum was shot to death by her former partner. In August, Rae’Lynn Thomas was killed by her mother’s ex-boyfriend, who lived in the family’s home.
To learn more about violence against transgender people, visit http://hrc.org/trans-violence.