by Violet Lhant •
Ariyanna Mitchell, a 17-year-old Black transgender girl, was a junior at East End Academy in Newport News, Virginia and a member of the Triple E (Electra Eagles Elite) Dance Academy. Her family recalled that “She was truly unique, funny, and loved by everyone. There was never a dull moment when Ariyanna was around.”
On April 2, 2022, Mitchell was fatally shot in Hampton, Virginia while protecting her friend during a fight at a party. A suspect questioned her gender identity and shot her multiple times upon receiving a response. Police have arrested the suspect and charged him with Mitchell’s murder.
At the time, Mitchell’s death marked the at least 11th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2022. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported. In 2021, despite limitations in reporting, HRC recorded the deaths of 57 transgender and gender non-conforming people, the largest number of fatal trans violence incidents recorded in a single year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.
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 2017-2022 Transgender Homicide Tracker, the vast majority of confirmed homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, with Black transgender women accounting for 73% of all transgender gun homicide victims. . Further, advocates saw a 43% increase in the formation of anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups in 2019.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Virginia are protected from discrimination in education, housing, employment and public spaces. Virginia explicitly includes both sexual orientation and 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 anti-LGBTQ+ attacks at many levels of government this year. As of this writing, more than 270 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country, more than 110 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.
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