HRC Mourns Mel Groves, Black Transgender Man Killed in Jackson, Mississippi

by Violet Lhant

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mel Groves, a 25-year-old Black transgender man who was fatally shot in Jackson, Mississippi on October 11, 2021. Groves drove to Merit Health Hospital while suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center where he died. Groves’ death is at least the 39th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

Groves was a plant soil scientist at Alcorn State University who loved agriculture and animals. He shared on his Facebook profile that “Life is a gift and so are chances worth taking.” Groves was also an active member of The Knights & Orchids Society (TKO), “a southern centered grassroots startup founded and led by black, queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people supporting gender justice and LGBTQ visibility.” On Facebook, TKO shared that Groves was a former TKO youth ambassador, the chosen family of TKO Executive Director Quentin Bell, and a farmer for TKO Society’s garden program. TKO shared that Groves feared for his life as a trans man in Jackson and offered a reward for information related to his death.

Mel Groves had an incredibly bright future, but it was stolen from him well before his time. The loss of such a life is a tragedy for our community and for the world. We must work to create a society where trans people, especially Black trans people, no longer have to live in fear.

Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

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.

The Jackson Police Department is currently searching for a motive, suspects and the location where Groves was shot.

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, Groves was misgendered in some 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.

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.

Topics:
Transgender