Known for a smile as bright as her future according to news reports, Chanelika Y’Ella Dior Hemingway was a light in every room she entered. Hemingway, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Albany, New York on May 31, 2022. Hemingway’s death is at least the 15th 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.
She was born and raised in Guilderland, New York. She was close with her mom, cousins, and her niece, according to PGH Lesbian Correspondents. She graduated from Albany High School and studied at Hudson Valley Community College. She turned 30 at the beginning of May. And she also graduated from the University of Albany with a bachelor’s degree where she was the recipient of a 2022 Spellman Academic Achievement Award.
“She was always proud of who she was and so was I,” said her mother in a TV interview.
According to PGH Lesbian Correspondents, the Albany Police Department is investigating but has not released any details on this case. If you have any information, please contact the Albany Police Department Detectives at 518-438-4000.
Tragically, interpersonal violence accounts for a significant number of fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people. A report by the HRC Foundation, “An Epidemic of Violence 2021,” found that between 2013 and 2021, approximately two-thirds of transgender and gender non-conforming people with known killers had their lives taken by an acquaintance, friend, family member or intimate partner. Intimate partners specifically accounted for over a fifth (21%) of all known perpetrators–and it is likely this may even be an undercount. To date, the relationship of the victim to the killer is still unknown for a plurality (43%) of all identified cases of fatal violence.
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Chanelika Y’Ella Dior Hemingway 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, transgender and gender non-conforming people in New York are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. New York does include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law. Though we have recently seen some political gains that support and affirm transgender people, we have also faced anti-LGBTQ+ attacks at many levels of government this year. As of this writing, more than 270 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country, more than 110 of which directly target transgender people.
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.