HRC is deeply saddened to report the death of Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black transgender woman who was killed in Miami, Florida on November 4. HRC received reports of Skylar’s death a few weeks ago and has been investigating.
Police are investigating her death as a homicide. At this time, there are still few details known about the circumstances surrounding her death, but based on information from her friends, she was shot. HRC has now tracked at least 40 deaths this year of transgender and gender non-conforming people. At the time of Skylar’s death, her death was believed to have been at least the 37th reported. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported -- or misreported.
Skylar was described as a “kind and gentle soul” who “had such a love for family and close friends” and who also “loved people in general.” She had a “warm personality” and a “friendly spirit,” and brought people who knew her “so much joy.”
“In November alone, at least four transgender women of color have been killed in this country. This reflects a horrific rate of violence that the transgender and gender non-conforming community, especially Black transgender women, is facing this year,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper. “We are mourning Skylar’s loss along with her friends and family. Skylar was just at the beginning of her life, and she did not deserve to have that life cut short. None of the trans and gender non-conforming people who have been killed this year deserved to have their lives taken from them. We must continue to affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter and take action to end the devastating violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people.”
HRC has officially recorded more violent deaths of transgender and 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 and gender non-conforming people over a 12-month period was in 2017, when we reported 31 people violently killed.
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.
The investigation is reported as ongoing. Anyone with information about Skylar’s death is asked to contact Miami-Dade Police Department Homicide Detective A. Gonzalez at (305) 471-2400. To remain anonymous, contact Miami-Dade County Crime Stoppers at (305) 471-TIPS (8477) or (866) 471-8477, or visit www.CrimeStoppers305.com and select “Submit a Tip.”
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Florida are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. While Florida does include sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law, it does not expressly include gender identity. 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.
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.