Honoring Amariey Lei, Young Trans Woman Killed On New Year’s Day

by Jose Soto

Amariey Lei, a young Black transgender woman who was also known as Myara, was a dancer her entire life. As reported by PghLesbian, Amariey Lei was a beloved coach for the Lady Diamonds, a hip-hop and majorette dance team, and she strived to instill positivity and confidence in other young dancers. Tragically, Amariey Lei’s “vibrant soul,” as her family described it, was senselessly taken away.

At around 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day, local police in Wilkinsburg, a borough bordering Pittsburgh, responded to reports of a lifeless body lying on the street. Amariey Lei was found shot at the 1300 block of Wood Street. Her death marks at least the first 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.

Born and raised in Wilkinsburg, Amariey Lei graduated from Woodland Hills High School. According to her family, Amariey Lei was 20 years old at the time of her death. Her family has established a crowdfund to help with funeral expenses. At the time of publishing, there have been no updates surrounding the investigation of Amariey Lei’s death.

While so many others are looking forward to the new year, establishing goals and resolutions and aspiring to their dreams, Amariey Lei’s family and friends are grieving the loss of such an important person in their lives. Only a day into 2022 we are already discussing the importance of safety for all trans people in this country and the dire need for protective policy that ensures our well-being and prosperity. For all trans activists and allies, Amariey Lei’s death is a call to action and a reminder that we must continue to fight against racial injustice, transphobia, discrimination and all other forms of oppression and malice.”

Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

HRC recorded at least 51 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2021, more than in any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.

Amariey Lei’s tragic death leaves many unanswered questions for her family, friends and the LGBTQ+ community at large. Anyone with information regarding her death is encouraged to contact the Allegheny County Police at 1-833-ALL-TIPS.

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.

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.

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. For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.