HRC is heartbroken to learn of the death of Shaki Peters, a 32-year-old Black transgender woman killed on July 1 in Amite City, Louisiana. Her death is believed to be at least the 20th known violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. Unfortunately, HRC has already learned of a 21st and 23rd death, those of Bree Black and Summer Taylor. Since HRC began tracking this data in 2013, advocates have never seen such a high number at this point in the year.
“In just four days, we have seen the deaths of at least three transgender and gender non-conforming people, including Shaki Peters. This horrific spike in violence against our community must be an urgent call to action for every single person in this nation,” said Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Trans Justice Initiative. “This is the deadliest period we have on record. While we are still awaiting facts on the ground, it is clear that members of our beloved community are being killed because of who they are. Racism, toxic masculinity, misogyny and transphobia are destroying lives and taking away our loved ones. I am heartbroken. I am furious. When will our country stop killing us?”
Local police have identified a person of interest in the case.
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Peters has been misgendered in media reports following her death. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment too often seen from media, law enforcement and our highest elected officials. Per HRC research, an estimated 78% of all tracked deaths included misgendering in media or by law enforcement. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people.
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 and gender non-conforming 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 Louisiana are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and in public spaces. Additionally, Louisiana does not include gender identity as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law. 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, misogyny, toxic masculinity, 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.