The Human Rights Campaign is shocked, saddened and horrified to learn of the death of Titi Gulley, who some knew as Tete, a 31-year-old Black transgender woman killed in Portland, Oregon, on May 27, 2019. Her death is believed to be at least the 27th known violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2019 in the U.S. While she was killed last year, Gulley’s death was originally ruled a suicide by hanging. Portland Police have since opened an investigation into Gulley’s death, after the victim’s family collected and presented evidence that there may have been foul play involved.
Gulley was experiencing homelessness at the time of her death. This, along with the factors that lead to homeslessness such as housing discrimination and systemic racism and transphobia that deprive individuals from employment opportunities, put transgender and gender non-conforming people at increased risk of violence and danger.
“Black Americans are being lynched in America,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “The details of Titi Gulley’s death must be thoroughly investigated and handled with the utmost care. It is disgusting that local authorities were so quick to rule this case a suicide -- forcing a grieving family to do their own work to convince police to care about a Black, transgender woman who was experiencing homelessness. Black Transgender Lives Matter. We must do more to end this epidemic of violence that is killing more and more beautiful lives. To every Black trans person reading this: You matter. You have value and you make the world a better place by being here. These disgusting crimes are terrifying -- I’m terrified too. But never believe that your existence is less than any other person.”
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 28 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.
There are currently very few explicit federal legal protections for transgender or gender-expansive people. At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Oregon are explicitly protected in employment, housing and in public spaces. They are also covered under the state’s hate crimes legislation. Nationally, despite some 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.
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.