Keisha Jenkins, a 22-year old transgender woman of color, was fatally shot Tuesday morning in Philadelphia. Local reports say that she was attacked by a group of men, one of whom shot her twice in the back.
Keisha’s tragic death coincides with the anniversary of the death of Judy Shepard’s son, Matthew Shepard. Last week, in an op-ed co-written with HRC President Chad Griffin, Shepard remarked, “Even in a moment of unprecedented visibility for transgender people, their right to simply live authentically is threatened daily by violence, with countless unreported or unseen cases falling behind scattered headlines.”
Jenkins is at least the 20th transgender person who has been killed this year, and the 18th transgender person of color, in what has become a nationwide epidemic of anti-transgender violence. London Chanel, also a transgender woman of color, was fatally stabbed by her roommate earlier this year in Philadelphia.
Matthew Shepard’s brutal 1998 murder became a rallying cry for LGBT advocates around issues of bias-motivated violence, and eventually led to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009.
Yet as Shepard and Griffin noted, federal hate crimes legislation is only one part of reducing violence against the transgender community:
“Permanent, explicit non-discrimination protections that cover life’s necessities — from employment and housing to credit and education and beyond — are long overdue. The Equality Act, introduced in Congress in July, would ensure that these explicit federal protections exist: from recourse for a transgender woman denied housing at an emergency shelter, to explicit protections under federal law for a transgender student or employee discriminated against because of who they are. But make no mistake, this legislation and the federal arena are not the only place for action. We need policies that address intimate partner violence and ensure safe schools, and we need mayors, police chiefs, state legislators and governors to do everything in their power to bring solutions to the table.”
For more information on anti-transgender violence, visit hrc.org/trans-violence.