HRC Honors the Life of Marisela Castro, 39-year-old Transgender Woman Killed in Houston, Texas

by Laurel Powell

On the eve of her 40th birthday, Marisela Castro was reportedly planning a birthday party for her friends and family. Tragically, she never got to celebrate. HRC is deeply saddened to learn of Marisela’s death. Marisela Castro was killed in the Northshore neighborhood of Houston, TX on Friday, July 29, 2022. Marisela is at least the 23rd transgender or gender non-conforming person HRC has learned was violently killed in 2022. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

Marisela Castro was born in Honduras and spent much of her life in North Carolina before moving to Houston to be closer to family. According to her friend Jorge Luis Lizardo, as quoted in the Houston Chronicle, she was a “bright” and “sunny” person who had never made enemies.

Yet again, we find ourselves having to memorialize and honor a member of our community who was taken from us long before her time. Marisela Castro’s life, from all we know of it, was filled with love for family and friends, all of whom now share in the grief of her loss. We must all do more to protect transgender women, as we all deserve to live full lives free from violence and discrimination."

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

Marisela Castro. Twenty-three confirmed killings of transgender people this year illustrate the continued harm and violence across the nation experienced by transgender and gender-diverse humans, with transgender people of color experiencing the grunt of the brutality. Texas remains the Transgender Murder Capitol of America because of the continued lack of funding, resources, and support to build thriving transgender communities and a government that sees us as less than human.”

Verniss McFarland, HRC ACTIVATE fellow and Houston resident

According to reporting from numerous local sources, Marisela was in a car traveling through East Houston’s Northshore neighborhood when an individual shot her in the back as she walked down the street. Houston police have not arrested or charged anyone with the crime as of publishing.

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 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.

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Texas are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Texas does not include 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 unprecedented anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in the states. As of this writing, more than 3000 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country, nearly 150 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.

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