HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jenna Franks, a 34-year-old white transgender woman who was killed in Jacksonville, North Carolina, in February. Her body was discovered on February 24. Her death is at least the 10th violent death of a transgender or non-binary person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
Jenna was a part of the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center family. She is being remembered on Facebook by friends and family as “sweet” and “a rock star.” Dennis Biancuzzo, Executive Director for the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center, described Jenna as “a beautiful soul” and “a breath of fresh air.” Biancuzzo and Jenna’s sister, Amber Franks, are currently raising funds for the Jenna Franks Interim Housing Project in Jenna’s memory, which will offer housing and job training for LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness. Speaking about the housing project, Amber said, “[Jenna] would be so happy to know that she did something to help those who needed help like she did.”
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.
Jenna’s death is currently being investigated as a homicide, and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information can contact Detective Kymberly Schott at 910-938-6414 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273. If calling Crime Stoppers, please refer to Case 21-00540.
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Jenna was 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, transgender and gender non-conforming people in North Carolina are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. North Carolina also does not have a law that expressly addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. While the past few years have been marked by anti-LGBTQ attacks at many 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.