Remembering KC Johnson, Transgender Woman Killed in Wilmington, North Carolina

by Violet Lhant

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of KC Johnson, a 27-year-old white transgender woman who was killed in Wilmington, North Carolina on January 14, 2023, after being declared missing on January 13. KC’s death is at least the second violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

According to local news, KC’s partner Bulla Brodzinski remembered her as “kind and caring and said they had a lot in common, bonding over their shared experiences as transgender women.”

Bulla also described how KC helped and inspired her, saying “She motivated me to get out of a dark place and get my life back together. Finally, I was going on a good path, I was clean, I was taking better care of myself. I was getting out of that depressed state and she was there for me. She was the one I could open up to.”

KC found love and joy in her community. We often hear stories of violence and discrimination against transgender and non-binary people, but we must also acknowledge the joy in our community when we live as our authentic selves with people who see, accept, and care about us. For someone to steal KC’s life so callously is to extinguish another light of joy in the world. We must all work to end this violence and build brighter futures for transgender and non-binary people.”

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

A suspect has been taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and kidnapping. Police believe the suspect had met KC online on social media prior to her death. As of this writing, KC has not been found, though authorities are currently working to confirm that remains found in Georgia are KC.

Tragically, interpersonal violence accounts for a significant number of fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people. A report by the HRC Foundation, “An Epidemic of Violence 2022” found that between 2013 and 2022, approximately one third (29%) 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 one in five (19%) of all known perpetrators–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 plurality 44% of all identified cases of fatal violence.

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in North Carolina are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. North Carolina 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.

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.