Remembering Cashay B. Henderson, a Black transgender woman described as a “bubbly spirit.”

by Kathryn Smith

HRC is heartbroken to learn of the death of Cashay Henderson, a 31-year old Black transgender woman who was shot in Milwaukee on February 26, 2023. Firefighters discovered Cashay when they were responding to a fire that had been set in her apartment unit. Cashay’s death is at least the sixth violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023, as well as the third killing of a Black transgender woman in Milwaukee in just the past nine months. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

In a GoFundMe started by Cashay’s cousin to help cover funeral costs, Cashay is described as “a bubbly spirit with a down to earth, tell it like it is personality,” who was “as beautiful as can be, inside and out.” The GoFundMe also notes that Cashay is survived by her father, mother, sister, and niece, as well as other family and “many, many friends.” Diverse and Resilient, an LGBTQ+ nonprofit organization in Wisconsin, wrote in a Facebook post that Cashay “was a loved and valued member of our community. Many of us are in mourning today.”

“While we are filled with grief, we are also filled with anger,” the Diverse and Resilient post continued. “Black Trans Women continue to be at the highest risks for homicides within the LGBTQ community. The continued attacks by right wing elected officials to remove safety and rights for Trans people are causing an increase in vitriol and hatred toward people of Trans experience. We call for an immediate halt to the hateful rhetoric and the dangerous bills that are written as a result of transphobia and lies.”

It is clear that Cashay had many people in her life who cared about her deeply, and we stand with all of those people as they demand justice. The heartlessness with which Cashay’s life was stripped away is harrowing, and we must do everything in our power to ensure this epidemic of violence is ended once and for all."

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

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.

In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Cashay was misgendered in some media and police reports. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement and elected offices. According to HRC research, it is estimated that approximately three-quarters of all known victims were misgendered by the media and/or by law enforcement. 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.

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Wisconsin are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Wisconsin does not include sexual orientation or 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. As of this writing, more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country, nearly 150 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.

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.