The Human Rights Campaign is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Kee Sam, a Black transgender woman, in Lafayette, Louisiana. Sam was shot at a hotel on August 12 and was transported to a hospital, where she passed away the next day from her injuries. Her death is believed to be at least the 27th 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. The number of transgender or gender non-conforming people whom HRC has tracked as being killed so far this year is now equal to the total number of deaths that HRC tracked in all of 2019.
“Another Black transgender woman has been killed in this country,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper. “We know that Black trans women are disproportionately affected by this violence, and yet far too many still remain silent about the violence we face. HRC has already seen as many violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people this year as we tracked all of last year. We must all speak up in support of trans and gender non-conforming people and affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter. As we mourn Kee, we will continue to advocate for reforms that will protect trans lives. We must all support and protect our trans friends and family. We must also ensure that hate crime laws and judicial systems hold those who hurt us accountable.”
Friends have been remembering Kee Sam on her Instagram page, commenting with heartfelt messages including “this can’t be real,” “I will miss you… you know you in my heart forever” and “rest in love.”
While the investigation is ongoing, a 16-year-old has been arrested in connection with the shooting.
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Kee Sam has been misgendered and misnamed in the media following her death. 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 or by law enforcement. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people.
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 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. Three-fourths of 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.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Louisiana are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. While Louisiana does include sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law, it does not 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. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.
This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color -- particularly Black transgender women -- must cease.
For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.