HRC Mourns Death of Savannah Ryan Williams, Cuban & Indigenous Transgender Woman with “Big Personality & Even Bigger Heart,” Murdered in November in Minneapolis, MN

by Laurel Powell

Savannah Ryan Williams, a 38-year-old Cuban and Native transgender woman, was violently killed in Minneapolis, MN on November 29, 2023. Savannah’s death is at least the 30th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported. We at the Human Rights Campaign are deeply saddened to learn of Savannah’s passing.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), Amber Muhm with The Aliveness Project described Savannah as “...fierce, full of life. She had a big personality and an even bigger heart.” Her partner described her as a “loving, caring person” and others noted that she was filled with generosity, being willing to give of whatever she had to help others.

It is so clear to me that Savannah’s life touched so many, and that her absence lessens her community. Trans people are beautiful and powerful and resilient - and yet the epidemic of violence we face stole Savannah from those who loved her. Our condolences go out to Savannah’s partner and family as we all continue this long journey, building a world together where every trans person has a chance to thrive.

Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC's Transgender Justice Initiative

According to reporting from MPR News and, a 25-year-old man has been charged with second degree murder in connection to Savannah’s death. On December 7th, a gathering at the Minnesota State Capitol saw Savannah’s partner, friends, chosen family, legislators and public officials gather in remembrance of her and to hold vigil in her memory.

Savannah is the at least the 15th Black transgender woman killed in 2023–and the 23rd trans or gender non-conforming person killed with a gun. More than 25,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to almost 70 cases, according to a 2022 report from Everytown for Gun Safety in partnership with HRC and The Equality Federation Support Fund, “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. In 2022, the most recent year for which data is available, the FBI recorded a record-high number of hate crimes related to gender identity, including a 33% jump in hate crimes on the basis of gender identity from the year before.

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Minnesota are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. However, Minnesota does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected characteristic in a 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. In June 2023, the Human Rights Campaign declared a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, as a result of the more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state houses that year, over 80 of which were signed into law—more than in any other year.

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.

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.

  • Learn about how transgender and non-binary people are combating transphobia, stigma and anti-trans violence through our Celebrating Changemakers series.