HRC Mourns Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Transgender Man Killed in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico

by Madeleine Roberts

HRC is horrified to learn of the death of Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a transgender man who was shot to death on January 9 in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. His death is believed to be at least the second violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021.

Samuel was looking forward to starting a new year. On January 1, he posted on his Facebook, “a new year to come, grateful for all the experiences who [taught] me how strong we really are, to life, to good and bad, and for all justice that is forth to come.” He also spoke out against violence in Puerto Rico, expressing his hope for a Puerto Rico without killings. He has been remembered by local advocates on social media who have called for justice for him and all LGBTQ people who have been killed in Puerto Rico.

We’re only a few weeks into the new year, and we have already seen several deaths of transgender and non-binary people. This is unacceptable. Samuel did not deserve to die —none of the LGBTQ people who have been killed in Puerto Rico or anywhere else deserved to have their lives cut short. We must take action now and demand that this violence end.”

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

Since the beginning of 2019, at least 12 LGBTQ people have been violently killed in Puerto Rico, including six transgender or gender non-conforming people who were killed there in 2020. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported. HRC recorded more violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2020 than in any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.

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. 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.

Police in Puerto Rico do not collect LGBTQ-identifying information. Although Puerto Rico’s hate crime laws expressly include both sexual orientation and gender identity, prosecutors in Puerto Rico rarely apply it.

In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Samuel was initially misgendered in police and media 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.

For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit