HRC Mourns Zachee Imanitwitaho, “Kind and Happy” Transgender Woman, Killed In Louisville, Kentucky

by Laurel Powell

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the killing of Zachee Imanitwitaho, who was simply known as Zachee to her friends. Zachee, a Black transgender woman, was born and lived in Rwanda before immigrating to the United States. She was shot and killed on Friday, February 3, 2023 in the parking lot of her workplace in Louisville, Kentucky. Zachee’s death marks at least the fourth violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

In reporting about her death, a coworker said of Zachee “She was always happy. Always walking down the hallways smiling… Even when she knew they were talking about her, she didn't care. She was always happy." In a GoFundMe for funeral expenses, Zachee was described as well-loved by family, friends, and coworkers, and that she lived her life bravely and authentically.

This is another murder victim, another Black woman whose life has been ended prematurely.

Chris Hartman, Executive Director of the Fairness Campaign

Zachee’s story was one of resilience, and it was one of joy. Everyone who knew her, from colleagues to local advocates, talked about the kindness she showed to everyone she knew. Her story mattered. Her life mattered. This epidemic of violence must come to an end - and it will take all of us working together to end it.

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

Several days after Zachee was killed, police reported that a former coworker had turned himself in, who has since been arrested and charged with Zachee’s murder.

Tragically, interpersonal violence accounts for a significant number of fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people. A report by the HRC Foundation, “An Epidemic of Violence: Fatal Violence Against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People in the United States in 2022” found that between 2013 and 2022, approximately one third (29%) of transgender and gender non-conforming people with known killers had their lives taken by an acquaintance, friend, family member or intimate partner. Intimate partners specifically accounted for one in five (19%) of all known perpetrators–and it is likely this may even be an undercount. To date, the relationship of the victim to the killer is still unknown for a plurality of 44% of all identified cases of fatal violence.

More than 25,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to almost 70 cases, according to a 2022 report from Everytown for Gun Safety in partnership with HRC and The Equality Federation Support Fund, “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. HRC’s own tracking of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people found that between 2013 and 2022, more than two-thirds of all recorded fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people involved a firearm – including over three -quarters of all reported fatalities in 2022.

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Kentucky are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment and housing, but not in education or public spaces. Kentucky does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected characteristics in its hate crimes law. Though we have recently seen some political gains that support and affirm transgender people, we have also faced unprecedented anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in the states. As of this writing, more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country, nearly 150 of which directly target transgender people.

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.

More resources:

  • Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.

  • Watch this PSA campaign elevating stories of trans joy and love.

  • Join HRC's CountMeIn campaign to take action for transgender and non-binary people.

  • Read these guidelines and this FAQ for journalists to ensure greater accuracy and respect in reporting.

  • Learn about how transgender and non-binary people are combating transphobia, stigma and anti-trans violence through our Celebrating Changemakers series.