HRC Honors Sasha Mason, a Latina Transgender Woman Killed in North Carolina

by Jared Todd

Sasha Mason, a 45-year-old Latina transgender woman, was part of a large, loving family. She was a beloved family member and friend to many. On May 13, 2022, Sasha was shot and killed in Zebulon, North Carolina. Sasha’s death is at least the 16th 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.

Sasha’s friends and family have shared on social media that Sasha will be remembered as a sweet, kind and generous person with a beautiful smile who cherished her friends and family.

I am heartbroken to learn of Sasha’s death – she should still be with us today. We will continue to remember her life and say her name alongside her friends and family. Sasha’s death is yet another tragic incident in an epidemic of fatal violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color. And those who wish to do us harm are emboldened by the hostile anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and anti-trans stigma in our current politics and culture. It must end."

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

Zebulon Police have arrested two suspects believed to be involved in the robbery and shooting that took place at Mason’s apartment. Both suspects have been charged with conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. Police believe this attack was targeted and news reports indicate that Sasha knew the two suspects, but there is no indication from police on whether murder charges will be brought, according to PGH Lesbian Correspondents.

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 three-fourths 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, Mason 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 North Carolina are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. North Carolina does not include sexual orientation or 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 and Latina 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.