HRC Mourns Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, Transgender Woman Killed in Puerto Rico

by Madeleine Roberts

HRC mourns the death of Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, whom some reports identify as Michelle Ramos Vargas and Michellyn Ramos Vargas, a transgender woman who was killed in San Germán, Puerto Rico. Vargas was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds early in the morning on September 30. Her death is believed to be at least the 30th 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 has now surpassed the total number of deaths that HRC tracked in all of 2019.

“At least three transgender women have been killed in less than two weeks. This level of violence — any level of violence — is unacceptable. We are not doing enough to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially trans women,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper. “Racism, transphobia and misogyny too often play a role in the deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially trans women of color. As we are mourning the loss of Michelle, we must do more to bring this violence to an end. We must work together with lawmakers at all levels to ensure that policies have protections in place for trans people, and we must work to support our trans friends and family.”

Vargas, who was in her mid-30s, was studying to become a nurse at Ponce Paramedical College.

In 2020, six of the 30 deaths of trans and gender non-conforming people have been in Puerto Rico. Earlier this year, five other transgender people, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz (also known as Alexa), Yampi Méndez Arocho, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Layla Pelaez Sánchez and Penélope Díaz Ramírez were all killed in Puerto Rico.

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.

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