HRC has recently learned that Jeffrey's sibling, Jasmine Cannady, was non-binary. This post has been updated accordingly.
HRC is horrified to learn of the deaths of Jeffrey “JJ” Bright, a 16-year-old transgender boy, and Jasmine Cannady, a 22-year-old non-binary person -- siblings who were killed in Ambridge, Pennsylvania on February 22. Their deaths are at least the eighth and ninth violent deaths of transgender or non-binary people in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
Jeffrey was a student at Ambridge High School in Ambridge, Pa. Jeffrey was active in P.R.I.S.M. (Pride. Respect. Inspiration. Safety. Mentoring.), a local non-profit outreach organization for the LGBTQ+ youth of Beaver County, Pa. “JJ is a part of our PRISM family,” PRISM shared on their Facebook. “JJ was a beautiful person with the biggest and brightest smile. We will miss your laugh. We will miss your jokes. You will never be forgotten. Fly high, JJ.”
Jasmine occasionally attended PRISM with Jeffrey and also participated in a summer program there several years ago. According to their Facebook, Jasmine worked at FedEx. PRISM describes Jasmine as “a sweet, shy and artistic soul,” and according to the Transfamily of NWPA, Jasmine “loved to dance. They cared deeply for their friends.” Under Jasmine’s favorite quotes on Facebook, they posted, “Don’t let anyone bring you down. Don’t let people tell you can’t do anything in life. You mean something.”
On February 23, PRISM held a candlelight vigil in memory of Jasmine and Jeffrey.
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.
Tragically, both Jeffrey and Jasmine were shot and killed in their home by their mother. Their mother has been arrested and charged with two counts of homicide.
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 2017-2019 Transgender Homicide Tracker, three-fourths of confirmed homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, and nearly eight in 10 homicides of Black trans women involve a gun. Further, advocates saw a 43% increase in the formation of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in 2019.
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, both Jasmine and Jeffrey were misgendered in initial 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, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has extended protections against sex discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces to include transgender and gender non-conforming people. Pennsylvania does not have a law that explicitly addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While the past few years have been marked by anti-LGBTQ attacks at all levels of government, recent weeks have seen some gains that support and affirm 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.
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 PSAs here.
For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.