HRC is heartbroken to learn of the death of Selena Reyes-Hernandez, a 37-year-old transgender woman shot to death in Chicago on May 31. Her death is believed to be at least the 16th 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.
According to news reports, Reyes-Hernandez was shot and killed because she told her assailant that she was trans. Unfortunately, attempts by media to reach her family have so far been unsuccessful, and details about Reyes-Hernadez life and loved ones are not yet known.
“We have lost a beloved member of our extended trans family because of hate and violence -- hate and violence that has corrupted our country’s soul and that shatters lives and futures every day,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “Selena should still be here today. Our continued failure to support and empower transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people is as inhumane as it is unacceptable. We need to take action now as a community and as a country that takes us towards racial justice and trans liberation.”
Last week, 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 Illinois are explicitly protected in employment, housing, education and in public spaces. They are also covered under the state’s hate crimes legislation. 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.