Post submitted with contributions from Kaitlyn Schmaltz, HRC Public Education Intern
HRC was deeply saddened to learn that JoJo Striker, a transgender woman, was found killed in Toledo, Ohio, on February 8. Striker, 23, was found shot dead in an empty parking garage. Police do not yet have a suspect or a motive for her murder, but the case is under investigation.
Striker’s mother, Shanda Striker, described her as “funny and entertaining” and said her family loved her deeply. “I just have a plea to the community: if you know something, anything, please stand up,” she told WTOL 11.
Initial media reports identified Striker by the wrong gender, Mic reported. This underscores the systematic undercounting of transgender murder victims. There is no mandatory 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, local media, or family and friends misidentify a victim’s gender—as they did with Striker. In others, they may report the victim’s gender correctly but not disclose the fact that they were transgender.
Striker’s death reflects a pattern of violence against the transgender community, particularly women of color. Striker’s is the third murder of a transgender woman of color HRC has identified in 2017. Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow and Mesha Caldwell were killed in January. Of the 22 murders of transgender people HRC tracked in 2016, more than three in four victims were Black, and 86 percent were women. In their 2016 report on anti-transgender violence, A Matter of Life and Death, HRC and the Trans People of Color Coalition explained that racism, sexism and anti-transgender stigma together “exponentially” increase the likelihood that transgender women of color will experience violence.
Striker is the seventh transgender woman reported killed in Ohio since 2013, the majority of them women of color. In 2016, two other black transgender women—Brandi Bledsoe and Rae'Lynn Thomas—were murdered in the state. Thomas was allegedly killed in a bias-motivated attack by her mother’s ex-boyfriend, while Bledsoe’s death remains unsolved. Ohio’s hate crime law does not cover crimes motivated by gender identity or sexual orientation.
Transgender murder victims from Ohio account for about nine percent of the cases HRC has tracked; nationally, about three percent of all reported murders take place in Ohio. The rate cannot be explained by a larger-than-average transgender population: a 2016 Williams Institute report ranked Ohio 34th of the 50 states for the estimated percentage of residents who are transgender.
HRC expresses its sincere sorrow and condolences to Ms. Striker’s family.
To learn more about HRC’s work to promote safety and well-being for transgender people, visit http://www.hrc.org/transgender.