HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jamagio Jamar Berryman, 30, who also sometimes went by Ja'leyah-Jamar, a Black LGBTQ person who was killed in Kansas City, Kansas last Friday.
Reports vary regarding Berryman’s gender identity and pronouns. While initial reports suggested Berryman was transgender, further reports from advocates close to him were that he did not identify as transgender, used “he/him” pronouns consistent with his gender assigned at birth and also was gender-expansive in his expression.
Local activists and community members joined family and friends at a vigil on Monday, and loved ones took to social media to mourn Berryman. A cousin posted, “Ja’leyah-Jamar didn’t ask for this life… God made us to live and love and to grow…”
Berryman was killed in an act of gun violence. Of the known transgender and gender-expansive people killed this year, 13 have died from gun violence. Of the more than 150 known victims of anti-transgender violence from 2013 to present, approximately two-thirds of those killed were victims of gun violence.
In November of 2018, ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, HRC Foundation released “A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2018,” a heartbreaking report honoring the trans people killed and detailing the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence.
These victims are not just numbers or headlines. They were real people worthy of dignity and respect, of life and love.
The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project posted in a statement on Facebook: “As we hold space to remember and uplift Ja’Leyah, we must also recognize the factors at play that contribute to the dramatically increased risk of violence that trans women of color -- especially Black trans women -- face everyday. Restrictions on basic needs and services like housing, employment, safe streets, healthcare, and protection under the law are just some barriers that put our sisters in harm’s way daily. The discriminatory and violent systems that perpetuate violence against transgender women of color are a direct result of bias from within and outside our own communities.”
There are currently very few explicit legal protections for transgender or gender-expansive people. Transgender people in Kansas are not explicitly protected across many aspects of daily life, including housing and employment, and they are not covered under the state’s hate crimes legislation. Furthermore, there is a critical need for lawmakers to address court-created loopholes that undermine federal, state and local employment non-discrimination protections in instances when discrimination is based on misperceptions.
Despite marginal gains in state and local policies that support and affirm transgender people, recent 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.
HRC will continue to hold the Trump-Pence administration and all elected officials who fuel the flames of hate accountable at the ballot box.
This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender and gender-expansive people of color -- particularly Black transgender women -- must cease.
For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/Transgender.
This blog post was updated on Sept. 23, 2019.