by Violet Lhant •
According to her family, Martina Caldera was “an amazing person, had the best personality, and called everyone on their birthdays.” Martina Caldera, a Latina transgender woman, was found fatally shot in Houston, Texas on December 6, 2021. Caldera’s death is at least the 56th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported. In 2021, despite limitations in reporting, HRC officially recorded the largest number of fatal trans violence incidents for a second consecutive year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.
Investigators initially believed Caldera had been hit by a car, but later found that she had been shot. Caldera’s family believes that her death may have been the result of intimate partner violence.
Caldera’s friends and family remembered her on social media, with one writing that she had “a heart of gold” and loved her Mom, nieces and nephews. She was described as “always smiling, singing and laughing,” loving Selena’s music, working two full-time jobs and enjoying a cold beer after a day's work, but also facing hardship due to being transgender.
The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Caldera’s death. Those with information are urged to call the homicide unit at 713-274-9100.
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 2021,” found that between 2013 and 2021, approximately two thirds 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 over a fifth (21%) 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 (43%) 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 is exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 2017-2019 Transgender Homicide Tracker, three-fourths of confirmed homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, and nearly eight in 10 homicides of Black trans women involve a gun. 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 Texas are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. While Texas does include sexual orientation as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law, it does not expressly include gender identity. While 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 200 anti-LGBTQ+ bills are under consideration in state legislatures across the country, more than 90 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.
In addition to the incidents of fatal violence that we track each year, HRC monitors several concerning deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people where details are unclear. We call for further investigation into these cases, which currently stand at 14--seven of which occurred in 2021. You may find a list of these cases here.
In order to work towards this goal and combat stigma against transgender and non-binary people, HRC has collaborated with WarnerMedia on a PSA campaign to lift up their voices and stories. Learn more and watch the PSAs here.
HRC has also launched the “Count Me In” campaign to encourage everyone, LGBTQ+ people and allies, to get loud, get visible and spread awareness on behalf of transgender and non-binary people. The more people who show they care, including allies and trans and non-binary people who speak up for the most marginalized in our community, the more hearts and minds we will change. Learn more and take action at hrc.org/CountMeIn.
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. For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/transgender.
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