HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, a 41-year-old Indigenous non-binary person shot to death in York, Pennsylvania.
HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, a 41-year-old Indigenous non-binary person shot to death in York, Pennsylvania. Whispering Wind was shot late in the evening on May 3 and died early on May 4. Their death is at least the 22nd violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
Whispering Wind, who described themself on their social media as “Shawnee by birth and Potawatomi by relations,” often shared photos of meaningful quotes on their Facebook. Friends and family are remembering them on Facebook, with one sharing “you are missed” and another remembering Whispering Wind as “a beautiful and kind soul.”
HRC recorded 44 deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2020, more than in any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.
According to local media, the York City Police Department is investigating Whispering Wind’s death as a homicide. Anyone with information can call 717-846-1234, submit a tip at 717-849-2204 or contact Crime Stoppers at 755-TIPS.
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 confirmed 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.
At the state level, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission has extended protections against sex discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces to include transgender and gender non-conforming people. Pennsylvania does not have a law that explicitly addresses hate or bias crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. While recent weeks have seen some gains that support and affirm transgender people, we are also currently facing anti-LGBTQ attacks at many levels of government, with more than 260 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country, more than 120 of which directly target transgender people. Last week, 2021 set a record as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.
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.
HRC has also launched the “Count Me In” campaign to encourage everyone, LGBTQ people and allies, to get loud, get visible and spread awareness on behalf of transgender and non-binary people. The more people who show they care, including allies and trans and non-binary people who speak up for the most marginalized in our community, the more hearts and minds we will change. Learn more and take action at hrc.org/CountMeIn.
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.