HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sara Blackwood, a transgender woman who was killed in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 11. Sara was shot while walking home and was transported to a hospital, where she passed away.
Tragically, she died on National Coming Out Day, a day that is marked every year on October 11 to emphasize the importance of coming out and creating a safe world in which LGBTQ people can live openly as their authentic selves. Sara’s death is the sixth violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in just over three weeks, and is believed to be at least the 33rd 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.
HRC has officially recorded more violent deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people than any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013. Previously, the highest known number of fatal deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people over a 12-month period was in 2017, when we reported 31 people violently killed.
“Six transgender woman have been killed over the last 23 days — which is just over three weeks — in this country. This violence is heartbreaking and horrifying. It must end,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper. “We have already seen more trans and gender non-conforming people killed this year since we began tracking these deaths in 2013, and the numbers continue to climb, even during a pandemic. We must all ask ourselves what each of us is doing to work to bring this violence to an end. We are mourning Sara’s loss along with her friends and family, including her domestic partner Avery, who are all in our thoughts. As we take time to remember Sara, we’ll keep fighting for the lives for all trans and gender non-conforming people.”
Sara enjoyed playing video games, including RPGs, and was a fan of the show “My Little Pony,” sharing many images, art and memes from the show on her Facebook page. Friends are remembering her on social media, with one friend sharing that the situation is “devastating.” Another friend shared, “she always had a place in my heart. Still does and I don’t see that ever changing.”
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Sara was initially misgendered by police and has been misnamed and misgendered in some media reports 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. Since HRC began tracking this violence in 2013, two-thirds of victims have been Black trans women and more than 60% of incidents have involved gun violence. 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 Indiana are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Although Indiana does have a hate crimes law, neither sexual orientation nor gender identity are included as protected characteristics in that law. 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, 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 first PSA here.
For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.