Acey D. Morrison, Two-Spirit Person With a “Joyous, Respectful, Loving Soul,” Killed in South Dakota

by Laurel Powell

HRC mourns the killing of Acey Morrison, a 30-year-old Two-Spirit person, who was killed in Rapid City, South Dakota on August 21, 2022. Acey’s death marks, according to HRC’s recordkeeping, at least the 30th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2022. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

In an obituary published on September 9th, Acey was described as “... [a] kindhearted, down to earth, joyous, respectful, and loving soul. She was a helpful and giving person who was always there for her family and friends. Acey always put a smile on others and had those around her laughing and happy. She always had her natural ways in being there for those she loved. She used laughter as medicine and chose self-love to heal wounds. She was the one to open her home up to you, give you her lasts, then inspire you to keep going, “this too shall pass”.

It’s clear that Acey was loved in this world. My heart hurts for those who now must grieve her absence. We are committed to ending this epidemic of violence against gender non-conforming people.

Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC's Transgender Justice Initiative

Two-Spirit is a term used by indigenous North Americans to describe individuals who possess both a feminine and a masculine spirit, and who sometimes occupy a role separate from men or women within their communities. To learn more about Two-Spirit identities and Two-Spirit leaders, visit the HRC resource “Two Spirit and LGBTQ+ Identities: Today and Centuries Ago.

News reports indicate Acey was shot dead in Rapid City, with little detail on the circumstances. Unfortunately, as is the case with many transgender or gender non-conforming victims of violence, she was misgendered by news coverage. Later reporting still notes that it is unclear whether or not charges have been filed.

More than 10,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to more than 28 each day, according to a 2020 report from HRC, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Giffords Law Center and Equality Florida titled “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns Are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. According to the 2017-2022 Transgender Homicide Tracker, the vast majority of confirmed homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, with Black transgender women accounting for 73% of all transgender gun homicide victims. Further, advocates saw a 43% increase in the formation of anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups in 2019.

In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Acey was misgendered in some media and police reports. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement and elected offices. According to HRC research, it is estimated that approximately three-quarters of all known victims were misgendered by the media and/or by law enforcement. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people. HRC, Media Matters and the Trans Journalists Association have also partnered on an FAQ for reporters writing about anti-trans violence.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.

More resources:

  • Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.

  • Watch this PSA campaign elevating stories of trans joy and love.

  • Join HRC's CountMeIn campaign to take action for transgender and non-binary people.

  • Read these guidelines and this FAQ for journalists to ensure greater accuracy and respect in reporting.