HRC is deeply saddened to report on the death of Aidelen Evans, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, who was found dead in Port Arthur, Texas, on March 18 and identified on March 25. HRC has been monitoring the circumstances surrounding Aidelen’s death, and following recent local news and police reports identifying Aidelen’s death as a homicide, is now identifying her death as an act of fatal violence.
Aidelen’s death is one of at least 30 deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
Aidelen, who was originally from Beaumont, Texas, had recently spent time in Port Arthur, Beaumont and Houston. She was experiencing homelessness at the time of her death. Sadly, not much is currently known about Aidelen’s life. “This is heartbreaking… Nobody — no parent should have to go through this,” said Lois Balka, Aidelen’s grandmother, in March. “You will always be in my heart.”
HRC recorded 44 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2020, more than in any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.
Port Arthur Police initially investigated Aidelen’s death, believing that she died under suspicious circumstances. Once it was determined that foul play was involved, Beaumont Police took over the investigation. As of this week, they are investigating Aidelen’s death as a homicide. Anyone with information can contact Beaumont Police at 409-832-1234 or submit an anonymous tip to Southeast Texas Crime Stoppers at 409-833-TIPS(8477).
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Aidelen was misnamed and 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 Texas are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. While Texas does include sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law, it does not expressly include gender identity. While we have recently have seen some gains that support and affirm transgender people, we have also faced anti-LGBTQ attacks at many levels of government this year, with more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country, more than 120 of which directly target transgender people. In May, 2021 set a record as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.
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 toward 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.
For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.