HRC Mourns Marilyn Cazares, Trans Latina Killed in California

by Elliott Kozuch

HRC is heartbroken to learn of the death of Marilyn Cazares, a transgender Latina killed in Brawley, California.

HRC is heartbroken to learn of the death of Marilyn Cazares, a transgender Latina killed in Brawley, California. Her death is believed to be the at least 23rd violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported -- or misreported. Since HRC began tracking this data in 2013, advocates have never seen such a high number at this point in the year.

Mindy Garcia, an aunt of Cazares, said she “loved to sing and dance” and “never bothered anyone.” On Twitter, community members are remembering Cazares, who was known in the community for her colorful clothing. Her cousin -- who notes that Cazares continued to use her birth name with family -- reflected on a memory of her cousin “jamming out to Billie Jean like the badass queen she was” while in the car.

Brawley police urge anyone with information on this case to contact Detective Sergeant Jesse Rotner at (760) 351-7777.

“This crime must be investigated with the utmost thoroughness, care and humanity. Marilyn Cazares was a human being, a beloved member of her family and the Brawley community,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper. “HRC has heard that Cazares was experiencing homelessness, furthering some of the societal barriers that put the transgender and gender non-conforming communities at risk of extreme violence. One way to truly bring justice for Cazares’ death would be to work to end homelessness -- which disproportionately affects young LGBTQ people -- and to provide more transgender-affirming resources for those experiencing homelessness.”

In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Cazares has been misgendered online following her death. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment too often seen from media, law enforcement and our highest elected officials. Per HRC research, an estimated 78% of all tracked deaths included misgendering in 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.

According to reports on social media from those who knew her, Cazares was experiencing homelessness at the time of her death. This, along with the factors that lead to homelessness such as housing discrimination and systemic racism and transphobia that deprive individuals from employment opportunities, put transgender and gender non-conforming people at increased risk of violence and danger.

Transgender and gender non-conforming people experiencing homelessness desperately need our support, whether in the form of housing, clothes, financial assistance, educational resources or LGBTQ-affirming mental health providers. As we work to end this epidemic of violence, we must support the work of local organizations performing this important work and advocate for additional government funding for these crucial resources.  HRC’s report, “Dismantling a Culture of Violence,” highlights the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence -- a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny. The report also focuses on concrete steps community members, elected officials and advocates must take to end this epidemic.

There are currently very few explicit federal legal protections for transgender or gender-expansive people. Nationally, despite some marginal gains in state and local policies that support and affirm transgender people, recent 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 appearing 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