Remembering Nikki Turrietta, A “Free Spirit” who Loved Her Family

by Violet Lhant

Nikki Turietta, a 31-year-old transgender woman, loved her family with whom she had recently spent the holidays. Turietta was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and graduated from Amy Biehl High School. According to Jen Struck, Turietta’s aunt, she was “a character” and a “completely free spirit” who had traveled across the United States and internationally.

Turietta was found fatally shot in Albuquerque on Dec. 31, 2021. Her death is at least the 53rd 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.

It is horrific that on the last day of 2021, yet another transgender person was killed in what has been a record year for fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people. This violence has been unceasing, but so too must our efforts to combat it never stop. We must commit to creating a safe and affirming culture for transgender and gender non-conforming people.”

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

In 2021, HRC officially recorded the largest number of fatal trans violence incidents in a year since we began tracking this violence in 2013.

Albuquerque Police Department homicide detectives are currently investigating Turietta’s death.

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.

In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Turietta 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.

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. In May, 2021 set a record as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.

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 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

For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit