HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Jessi Hart, a white 42-year-old transgender woman killed in Banks, Oregon. Her body was found on Oct. 17, 2021. Hart’s death is at least the 43rd violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say “at least'' because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Hart’s body was found in the woods outside Banks, a small town about 25 miles west of Portland, Oregon. Detectives suspect foul play in her death and believe she had died about two weeks before authorities found her body. Hart had been part of a journalistic feature on Portlanders living in hotel rooms as a last resort before homelessness. Her own housing insecurity initiated when Hart transitioned in 2016. Shortly after the feature was published, Hart’s subsidized stay at a hotel had ended and she, along with her teenage son, Caleb, had been sleeping in her black Saab. Through the assistance of a local nonprofit, both Hart and her son had started living in another hotel in early July. What happened to Hart between July and her death is unknown. Her car was later covered by the Washington County Sheriff’s office, which said the car had been spray-painted white.
According to Willamette Week, Hart had lost her construction company and her house when she transitioned. Her relationship with her family was also strained. The article suggests that she and Caleb shared a special relationship. Hart’s girlfriend, Audrey Savage, stated that she’d “miss everything about her” and that she was “intelligent and thoughtful and caring.”
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.
In the case of Jessi Hart, the Washington County’s Sheriff’s office asks that anyone who had contact with her in the past few months come forward to speak with investigators.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Oregon are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Oregon does include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law. 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 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.
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.
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. For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.