HRC is heartbroken to learn of the death of Brayla Stone, a 17-year-old Black transgender girl found killed on June 25 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her death is believed to be at least the 18th known violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. HRC has tracked eight such deaths from May 3rd to June 9th, constituting the greatest number of deaths we have recorded in this amount of time.
Center for Artistic Revolution hosted a vigil for Stone on June 29, asking mourners and community members to wear her favorite colors (red and purple), saying: “We are holding a candlelit vigil to honor Brayla Stones memory, Brayla was someone who always held space for others to be themselves and express their identities. Despite the fact that these institutions didn’t support Brayla, it is important that we uplift her memory and dedicate ourselves to seeking justice for her. She was 17 years old and her life was taken far too soon. We must put a stop to the violence against Black transwomen [sic]. We don’t want another Black transwoman’s [sic] death to go unnoticed.”
“Brayla Stone was a child. A child, just beginning to live her life. A child of trans experience. A young Black girl who had hopes and dreams, plans and community,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “As a nation, we failed Brayla -- as we have failed every transgender or gender non-conforming person killed in a country that embraces violence and upholds transphobia, racism, homophobia. Guns are not as important as people.”
Earlier this month, on the 4th anniversary of the tragedy at Pulse, HRC, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Giffords Law Center and Equality Florida released a new report entitled “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” This report notes that over 10,000 hate crimes in the US involve a firearm each year, which equates to more than 28 each day. The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. Since 2013, three-fourths of homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, and nearly eight in ten homicides of Black trans women involve a gun. Further, advocates saw a 43% increase in the formation of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in 2019.
In November 2019, ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, HRC Foundation released “A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2019,” a heartbreaking report honoring the trans people killed and detailing the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence -- a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny. Sadly, 2019 saw at least 27 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported -- or misreported.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Arkansas are not explicitly protected in employment, housing, education and in public spaces. Arkansas is one of only a small handful of states without statewide hate crime laws. Nationally, despite some recent gains that support and affirm transgender people, the past few years have been marked by anti-LGBTQ attacks at all levels of government.
We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation appearing at the local, state and federal levels because it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.
This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color -- particularly Black transgender women -- must cease.
For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/Transgender.