HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Tyianna Alexander, who was also known as Davarea Alexander, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman. Tyianna was shot to death in Chicago early in the morning on January 6. Her death is the first known violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. Her death is also at least the second violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in Chicago in the last several weeks, after Courtney “Eshay” Key was killed on December 25. 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.
Tyianna’s friends are remembering her on social media. Friends have posted that she had “good energy” and that she was “a beautiful light,” with one friend saying “I loved everything about her.” Said another friend, “this lady was nothing but life, encouragement, motivation and fun.”
“I am really saddened and distraught over the news of Tyianna’s and Eshay’s passings,” said a Howard Brown Health employee who wished to remain anonymous. “While many celebrated the holidays, the trans community of Chicago mourned the loss of great souls, and at the same time were shook to the core by the similarities of how they were killed. With both of them losing their lives from a gunshot to the head, around the same time and neighborhood, one is only left to speculate that perhaps there is a serial killer targeting Black trans women in Chicago. Since their passing, the Chicago Police Department has done nothing other than misgender them while our community was left to bring honor to their names. I am tired of being afraid for us, tired of contemplating when it's safe to be my authentic self, tired of adding more names to a list for our ‘allies’ to remember once a year.”
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 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, Tyianna 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.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Illinois are protected from discrimination in education, housing, employment and public spaces. Illinois explicitly includes both sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in its hate crimes 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 PSAs here.
For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.