HRC remembers Brandon "Tayy Dior" Thomas, transgender teenager killed in Mobile, Alabama

by Kathryn Smith

Brandon "Tayy Dior" Thomas, was a 17-year old transgender girl killed in a shooting in Mobile, Alabama, on Tuesday, May 7, 2024. Thomas’s death is at least the 14th violent killing of a transgender or gender-expansive person in 2024 that HRC has identified — and the second victim under the age of 18, with her death occurring a little under a month after that of River Nevaeh Goddard, a 17-year-old non-binary teen killed in Massachusetts, also by their romantic partner. We say “at least” because, too often, these deaths go unreported or misreported.

Though many news reports have referred to Thomas by her birth name (Brandon) and used he/him pronouns, her family alerted HRC that she is a transgender girl who used she/her pronouns, and requested that her name be listed as reflected here. Following, we will refer to her as Tayy throughout this post.

Tayy was beloved by her extensive family and community, with her grandmother telling HRC that “Tayy always had a huge smile on her face showing her dimples,” and that she loved doing her hair and “would help anyone.” She was further described as “shy but so fearless” with “natural leadership ability.” Tayy leaves behind her mother, grandmother, four siblings, including a twin brother, and multiple extended family members. Her family is currently struggling to pay for the costs of her funeral and has a GoFundMe page to which donations may be made.

By all accounts, Tayy was a beautiful soul deeply loved by her family, friends, and community. She had so much life ahead of her, and it is heartbreaking that that potential was ripped away so violently by someone she was supposed to be able to trust. In 2015, we found that over half of all transgender and nonbinary adults were victims of intimate partner violence. So far, in 2024, nearly half of all victims of fatal violence with a known killer were killed by a romantic or sexual partner, friend, or family member. Trans people should be able to trust that the people in their lives will help protect them from this violence, not cause it."

Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

In speaking with Tayy’s family, it is clear how deeply she was loved and cared for. Her death is a massive loss for everyone who had the privilege of knowing her, and for those who had not yet had the chance to do so. We join Tayy’s family in their fight for justice, including in their call to have her murder be classified as a hate crime."

Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama State Director for the Human Rights Campaign

While the murder suspect has been arrested and is currently being held without bail, the family was distressed to find out that the crime is not being described as a hate crime by law enforcement. They said that the suspect and Tayy had been dating for about a year, and they believed that the suspect shot Tayy out of fear that the relationship would become public.

Tragically, interpersonal violence accounts for a significant number of fatalities against transgender and gender–expansive people. A report by the HRC Foundation, “The Epidemic of Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in the United States: The 2023 Report found that between 2013 and 2023,more than one in five (22.4%) transgender and gender-expansive people with known killers had their lives taken by a romantic, sexual, or intimate partner. 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 third (36.1%) of all identified cases of fatal violence.

Interpersonal violence and gun violence go hand in hand, particularly among marginalized communities. Since HRC began tracking fatal violence against in 2013, more than six in ten people killed by an intimate partner were killed with a gun, as were over three-quarters of Black trans women. Alabama itself is facing a crisis of gun violence, with Everytown for Gun Safety reporting that Alabama has the 4th highest rate of gun deaths in the United States, with gun related homicides increasing by almost 90% over the last decade.

In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Tayy was misgendered in many media and police reports. In the last 11 years that HRC has been tracking fatal violence against the transgender and gender-expansive community, approximately two-thirds of all known victims were misgendered by the media and/or by law enforcement. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement, and elected offices. 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.

Tayy was the sixth transgender or gender-expansive person killed in April and May of 2024, with four of these deaths occurring in the South, where the vast majority of recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation has been concentrated. At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Alabama are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public spaces. Alabama includes sexual orientation or gender identity as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law, but also has multiple anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-transgender laws on its books. As reported by HRC’s Municipal Equality Index, which scores municipalities on their LGBTQ+ policy environment, Mobile, Alabama itself earned a score of just 31 out of 100, placing them in the bottom 25% of all cities. 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. In June 2023, the Human Rights Campaign declared a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, as a result of the more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state houses that year, over 80 of which were signed into law—more than in any other year.

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.