Honoring Ke’Yahonna Stone, A Much Loved Friend and Activist

by Jose Soto

Ke’Yahonna Stone, a 32-year-old Black transgender woman from Indianapolis, Indiana, is being remembered for her activism and for being a much-loved friend and family member. She had recently accepted a job offer to work for a local trans resource center to help advance her activism for the trans community.

Tragically, Stone never began her new professional venture. She died on Tuesday, December 28, 2021, after having been taken off life support for an injury inflicted on her two days prior. Her death marks the 51st 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.

Stone was out with friends at a nightclub on Christmas Day when a fight broke out in the parking lot. Stone was trying to intervene and defuse the situation when shots were fired, one of which hit Stone in the head. She succumbed to her injury after two days on life support. Local police are still investigating this incident.

Latroya Rucker, a friend of Stone who was with her at the time, told reporters that Stone was “breaking up a fight, trying to defuse a fight that was going on. My sister didn’t have nothing to do with nothing that was going on out there.”

Stone assisted the local transgender community in Indianapolis by offering her home as a safe place. She had relocated to Chicago to work for Amazon, but had accepted a job offer to begin working for Trans Solutions and Research & Resource Center just a week before her passing.

Losing any member of our community is tragic and it is compounding when they are actively advocating for the betterment of all transgender people. Stone was wholeheartedly invested in helping other trans folks like herself and was about to embark on a new professional path that would have furthered her activism. We need activists like Stone. I hope this tragedy inspires others to take the helm she left behind.”

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

At the time of publishing, no confirmed memorial arrangements have been made.

In 2021, HRC officially recorded the largest number of fatal trans violence incidents in a year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.

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, Stone 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.

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.