HRC is horrified to learn of the death of Asia Jynaé Foster, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman who was killed in Houston, Texas on November 20 as the result of a shooting. Her death is believed to be at least the 38th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
HRC has officially recorded more violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people than any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013. Previously, the highest known number of fatal deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people over a 12-month period was in 2017, when we reported 31 people violently killed.
Along with Asia’s death, HRC was also made aware of the death of Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman in Miami, Florida. There have been no reports by the media or law enforcement and HRC is continuing to investigate. Based on information from her friends, she was believed to have been shot -- potentially bringing the e number of violent deaths to 39.
“Asia’s death is reported to have occurred on Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day on which we honor those in our community we’ve lost to fatal violence. The fact we marked the most violent year on record only to be met with yet another tragedy is unacceptable,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper. “Asia and Skylar’s deaths should be a call to action for us all.”
Montrose Grace Place, an LGBTQ-affirming shelter for homeless youth in Houston, said, “Asia was outgoing, funny, and she could put together a read that left everyone around her scrambling to pick up their jaws.” A candlelight vigil was held for Asia at the Montrose Center, a Houston LGBTQ resource center. At the vigil, friends and family said Asia was a beacon of light in their community.
According to police investigators, Asia’s body was found by a man walking near Skyline Drive near Greenridge in Southwest Houston. Friends said the area was close to Asia's home and police believe her body was dumped after being shot. The circumstances leading to her death remain unclear.
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. Nationally, despite some marginal gains that support and affirm transgender people, the past few years have been marked by anti-LGBTQ attacks at all levels of government.
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 first PSA here.
In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people. For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.