L: London Starr; R: Bianca Davenport
London Starr, a Black transgender woman, and Jason Bradley, a Black drag artist who went by the name Bianca Davenport, were friends since high school who left their hometown of Texarkana, Texas to escape anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes. They moved to Fort Worth together and became well-respected performers in the local drag scene. On December 8, 2017, London and Bianca were shot by a man who sought out London for sex work. According to local news, Bianca died during the shooting, aged 35, and London was left paralyzed before dying in hospice care on July 2, 2022, aged 40. London is at least the 41st transgender or gender non-conforming person whose death we identify as the result of fatal violence in 2022. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
During the killer’s trial, Fort Worth Assistant Criminal District Attorney Allenna Bangs claimed that the killer sought out sex workers for robbery because he “expects nobody cares about them.” Although the killer was recently found not guilty after arguing self-defense, HRC remains indignant that this horrific act of violence ended the lives of two beloved members of the Fort-Worth LGBTQ+ community.
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 Texas are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Texas does not include gender identity as a protected characteristic 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. 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.