Marking the Deadliest Year on Record, HRC Releases Report on Violence Against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People

by Madeleine Roberts

2020 has seen at least 37 transgender and gender non-conforming people violently killed, more than any other year since HRC began tracking this data in 2013. HRC has now tracked more than 200 deaths since 2013

Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, released “An Epidemic Of Violence: Fatal Violence Against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People in the United States in 2020,” a distressing report honoring the at least 37 transgender and gender non-conforming people killed in 2020 and shining a light on data that HRC has collected since 2013 on the epidemic of violence.

With 37 known deaths this year, HRC has officially recorded more violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people than any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013. Previously, the highest known number of fatal deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people was in 2017, when we reported 31 people violently killed. Since January 2013, HRC has documented more than 200 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were victims of fatal violence. The release of this report comes one day ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time to remember the transgender and gender non-conforming people who have been lost to fatal violence over the course of the previous year.

“This year, we reached two grim milestones -- the Human Rights Campaign has recorded the most deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people of any year since we began tracking this violence, and we have documented more than 200 total deaths. Every life that we have lost this year and every year had value and did not deserve to be cut short. Divisive and dehumanizing rhetoric from anti-equality political leaders has contributed to the toxic mix of racism, sexism and transphobia that drives this horrific violence. It’s on all of us to fight for change at every level and take action to support trans and gender non-conforming people. We must work to dismantle the stigma that so many in the trans and gender non-conforming community face, and bring this violence to an end.”

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

“These victims, like all of us, were loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members. They worked, went to school and attended houses of worship. They were real people -- people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them. As we work to ensure that they are remembered with dignity in death, we will also continue to uplift the resilience and humanity of the entire transgender and non-binary community.”

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

Many factors can lead to this violence, including anti-transgender stigma that can lead to the denial of opportunities in society, such as employment discrimination and exclusion from health care, as well as to increased risk factors such as poverty and homelessness. The combination of these factors, which are often exacerbated by racism and sexism, can lead to an increased risk of fatal violence. Learn more in HRC’s “Dismantling a Culture of Bias.”

Although there are a few existing legal protections for transgender and gender non-conforming people -- such as the Violence Against Women Act, the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and some state and local laws -- this violence cannot be stopped until the rights of transgender and gender non-confroming people are fully realized and our systems are reformed to address the epidemic and its root causes. The report lays out federal and state actions that would move us closer to ending violence against trans and gender non-conforming people.

The report also lays out what people can do to help combat this violence. This includes working to eliminate stigma against trans and gender non-conforming people, using the correct names and pronouns, supporting laws and policies that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, uplifting transgender and gender non-conforming voices and building inclusive communities throughout society. HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative was launched in 2019 to dismantle unjust systemic barriers to transgender empowerment and help end the epidemic of violence by addressing the root causes of the physical danger, hatred and discrimination faced by transgender people in the U.S.

Last month, HRC President Alphonso David and Minneapolis City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins launched a “Pledge to End Violence Against Black and Brown Transgender Women” as part of HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative. The Pledge asks state and local elected leaders to acknowledge the disproportionate and record-breaking fatal violence against transgender people in America, especially Black and Brown transgender women, and take decisive steps to deliver change that saves lives and advances the cause of LGBTQ equality. Earlier this month, HRC also released the “Blueprint for Positive Change 2020,” an important brief that includes 85 individual policy recommendations, reaching across the federal government, aimed at bettering the daily lives of LGBTQ people at home and abroad. The Biden-Harris administration has the opportunity to not only put our democracy back on track but deliver real positive change for LGBTQ people’s daily lives, and the Blueprint has been shared with the Biden transition team as they evaluate the policy steps of the incoming administration.

This year’s annual report found that since the start of the year, at least 37 transgender and gender non-conforming people have been killed in the U.S. Of those 37 victims, 22 were Black and 7 were Latinx; 25 were Black or Latinx women. Since January 2013, HRC has documented more than 200 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were victims of fatal violence. Two-thirds of these known victims have been Black women and nearly 60% of known fatalities have involved a firearm. This fatal violence affects trans and gender non-conforming people nationwide, with HRC and advocates tracking cases of fatal violence since 2013 across 113 cities and towns in 33 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. These disturbing numbers likely underreport deadly violence targeting transgender and gender non-confirming people, who may not be properly identified as transgender or gender non-conforming by police, media or other sources.

The 37 known transgender and gender non-conforming people killed so far this year are: Dustin Parker; Neulisa Luciano Ruiz; Yampi Méndez Arocho; Scott/Scottlynn DeVore; Monika Diamond; Lexi; Johanna Metzger; Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos; Layla Pelaez Sánchez; Penélope Díaz Ramírez; Nina Pop; Helle Jae O’Regan; Tony McDade; Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells; Riah Milton; Jayne Thompson; Selena Reyes-Hernandez; Brian “Egypt” Powers; Brayla Stone; Merci Mack; Shaki Peters; Bree Black; Summer Taylor; Marilyn Cazares; Dior H Ova; Queasha D Hardy; Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears; Lea Rayshon Daye; Kee Sam; Aerrion Burnett; Mia Green; Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas; Felycya Harris; Brooklyn Deshuna; Sara Blackwood; Angel Unique; and Yunieski Carey Herrera. In addition, the report also profiles three other cases of Black transgender women, Ashley Moore, Tatiana Hall and Draya McCarty. Not much information is available in these cases, but HRC will continue to monitor for additional developments. This year’s report also contains updates on the deaths of Nikki Kuhnhausen, Yahira Nesby, Mia Penny and Layleen Cubilette-Polanco, which occurred after the publication of the 2019 report, as well as Jennifer Laude.

The report comes just days after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released 2019’s hate crimes data, which shows an uptick in gender identity based hate crimes rising from 4.2% in 2018 to 4.8% in 2019. Because reporting hate crimes to the FBI is not mandatory, these alarming statistics likely represent only a fraction of such violence. That is why since the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, HRC has worked with the FBI to update the agency’s crime reporting. HRC continues to press for improved reporting, passage of state laws that protect LGBTQ individuals from hate crimes and expanded education and training initiatives.

This past week, HRC has commemorated Transgender Awareness Week, an annual event that is dedicated to illuminating both the progress and unfinished work in the fight for transgender and non-binary equality. The week culminates in Transgender Day of Remembrance, held every year on Nov. 20. To mark the week this year, HRC participated in a conversation with Angelica Ross at the TransTech Summit, hosted an Instagram Live with Luchina Fisher, Gia Parr and Ellen Kahn and an Instagram Live with Sarah McBride, held two film screenings of “Mama Gloria” and “Born to Be,” both of which included panel discussions after the screenings and joined an HBO summit around the new documentary “Transhood.” We also released the next videos in our stop the stigma campaign with WarnerMedia, “See Each Other. Save Trans Lives.,” which feature uplifting vignettes that tell stories of joy. The videos are available at the following links: Nakiya Lynch, Alexis Abarca and Tori Cooper. Additionally, the HRC Foundation released a call to action to support trans and gender diverse youth with new CDC data, and HRC’s Trans and Gender-Expansive Staff Employee Resource Group released a new resource on the history of the trans and non-binary community. Finally, HRC will be hosting a panel tomorrow at 11 a.m. EST to mark Trans Day of Remembrance. See a full list of HRC’s actions and resources from the last week here.

For more information on the Human Rights Campaign’s work on transgender and non-binary equality, visit

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