Zoey Martinez Is Remembered For Her “Beautiful Spirit"

by Violet Lhant

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, a 20-year-old Latina transgender woman who was fatally shot in Maple Valley, Washington on August 31, 2021. Zoey's body was later found in Seattle. Initial reports did not recognize Zoey as transgender until her family confirmed her identity this month in conversations with the Diversity Alliance of the Puget Sound. Martinez’s death is at least the 41st violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

In a statement to HRC, Martinez’s family shared the following:

“Zoey loved hanging out with friends and spending time with her dogs. Zoey mastered makeup that accentuated her loving and caring personality. Zoey was the caretaker of her mother after her mother survived COVID but was in recovery. Zoey loved helping out around the family farm. Zoey had a beautiful spirit, she always had a smile and had only kind words to say about others. Zoey was a born leader and her peers acknowledged her as such. Her character was that she would debate endlessly for what she thought was right. She was very witty.”

Each year the number of trans and gender diverse lives lost to violence grows exponentially, these lives are more than just numbers on a list, but friends, family, and members of our community. To continue to lose so many people we love year after year is unfathomable. The loss of Zoey reverberates around our State, her absence is palpable, there is forever a missing piece in our community."

Oliver Webb, Board Chair of Diversity Alliance of the Puget Sound

With one month until Transgender Day of Remembrance, we’re already on track to identify more incidents of fatal violence than last year’s record high. Zoey’s life was cut far too short, a reflection of a culture that views transgender and non-binary people as disposable. In statehouses and in the media, this year has also seen a record number of attacks against transgender and non-binary people. We must acknowledge their humanity, and put an end to the devaluation of our lives.”

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

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.

Martinez was kidnapped on August 31, 2021 and her body was found in an alleyway in the Greenwood neighborhood less than 12 hours later. A suspect has been detained and is currently awaiting arraignment.

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.

While we have recently have seen some gains that support and affirm transgender people, we have also faced anti-LGBTQ attacks at many levels of government this year, with more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills under consideration in state legislatures across the country, more than 120 of which directly target transgender people. In May, 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.