Sherlyn Marjorie was a 35-year-old Latina transgender woman and drag performer who one friend remembered as “the best impersonator in Tijuana, my second Edith Marquez.” On September 17, 2023, Sherlyn was killed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A suspect, Sherlyn’s former intimate partner, has been charged with her murder. Sherlyn’s death is the at least 21st 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.
Sherlyn was well loved in her local LGBTQ+ community, with friends organizing a drag tribute show, creating a roadside memorial and organizing a car wash to pay for her funeral expenses.
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 44% of all identified cases of fatal violence.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in New Mexico are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. New Mexico does include both sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics 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. In June 2023, the Human Rights Campaign declared a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, as a result of the more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state houses that year, over 80 of which were signed into law—more than in any other year.
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.