Remembering Caelee Love-Light, Latina Transgender Woman Killed In Phoenix

by Violet Lhant

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Caelee Love-Light, a 27-year-old Latina transgender woman who was killed in Phoenix, Arizona on December 17, 2022. Caelee’s death is at least the 38th 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.

According to PghLesbian Correspondents, Caelee’s friend Ana Luthien Lisbeth Keathley described her as “a person who loved to read. Almost daily when I met with her, she was fond of reading. She reminded me of myself when I liked to read Encarta and other encyclopedias growing up. In contrast, Caelee loved to read anything. She was hyperlexic, and she enjoyed learning something new every day.” Ana also described Caelee as a religious and spiritual person who “passionately defended nonbinary and trans folks.”

Caelee’s friends knew her as a curious and open-minded person who cared deeply about her community. For her life to be cut short in an act of violence is a tragedy. She had so much to offer the world, and her name will not be forgotten by those who love her."

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

Caelee was found dead in a car after an altercation with a male occupant. The man later died in the hospital.

Tragically, interpersonal violence accounts for a significant number of fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people. A report by the HRC Foundation released earlier in 2022, “An Epidemic of Violence 2022,” found that between 2013 and 2022 , approximately one third 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 a fifth (19%) of all known perpetrators–and it is likely this may even be an undercount. To date, no arrest has been made and the killer remains unknown, or at large, for r a plurality (44%) of all identified cases of fatal violence.

Additionally, according to the 2015 United States Transgender Survey, 54% of transgender and non-binary people have experienced some form of intimate partner violence in their life. Last year, HRC released a report, titled “LGBTQ Intimate Partner Violence and COVID-19,” that details the increased risk of interpersonal violence faced by LGBTQ+ people which has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 25,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to almost 70 cases each day, according to a 2022 report from Everytown for Gun Safety in partnership with HRC and The Equality Federation “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 Arizona are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Arizona does include sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law–but gender identity is not included. 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.

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 Count Me In 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.