Ahead of TDOR, We Remember Angel Naira, Black Trans Woman Who “Loved Everyone”

by Violet Lhant

Ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, HRC is remembering Angel Naira, a 36-year-old Black transgender woman who was described as “a great person” and well loved by her family and friends. Naira was found fatally shot at her home in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 11, 2021. Naira’s death is at least the 47th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported. With Naira’s death, HRC has now recorded five cases of fatal violence from Pennsylvania this year. We previously reported on Chyna Carillo, Jeffrey “JJ” Bright and Jasmine Cannady, and Whispering Wind Bear Spirit.

In 2021, HRC has recorded more violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people than any year prior. Previously, the highest number of fatal deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people that HRC Foundation has tracked over a 12 month period was just last year in 2020, when at least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed.

Naira was a graduate of Aliquippa High School and Beaver Falls Beauty Academy and worked full time in home health care. Nairia’s brother started a fundraiser to pay for her funeral expenses and wrote that she was “a great person and loved everyone. She had a big heart and would do anything for her family and friends.”

Friends also remembered Naira on social media, with one writing of her “What a Beautiful soul so outgoing and you definitely embraced your inner self taught me a lot about loving your self and never being afraid to be you no matter what anyone says.” She described Naira as “fearless and fabulous” and said that she “always had a smile on [her] face.”

It is devastating, but unsurprising that we are remembering yet another bright soul during Trans Week of Awareness and just days before Trans Day of Remembrance. The pace of deaths this year has been unrelenting. We’ve already recorded more cases this year than during the entirety of 2020. We must all commit not only to remembering those who have been taken from us, but to dismantling transphobia and improving the material conditions of trans and non-binary people to end this epidemic of violence.”

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

HRC recorded 44 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2020, more than in any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.

Pennsylvania State Police are currently investigating Naira’s death. A 911 dispatch call suggests that Naira’s home may have been the target of a break-in prior to her death.

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 2017-2019 Transgender Homicide Tracker, three-fourths of confirmed homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, and nearly eight in 10 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 an injustice compounding this tragedy, Naira 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.

At the state level, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has extended protections against sex discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces to include transgender and gender non-conforming people. Pennsylvania does not have a law that explicitly addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While recent weeks have seen some gains that support and affirm transgender people, we are also currently facing anti-LGBTQ attacks at many levels of government, with more than 260 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country, more than 120 of which directly target transgender people. Last week, 2021 set a record as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.

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.

In order to work towards this goal and combat stigma against transgender and non-binary people, HRC has collaborated with WarnerMedia on a PSA campaign to lift up their voices and stories. Learn more and watch the PSAs here.

HRC has also launched the “Count Me In” campaign to encourage everyone, LGBTQ people and allies, to get loud, get visible and spread awareness on behalf of transgender and non-binary people. The more people who show they care, including allies and trans and non-binary people who speak up for the most marginalized in our community, the more hearts and minds we will change. Learn more and take action at hrc.org/CountMeIn.