Chanell Perez Ortiz, was a 29-year-old Puerto Rican trans woman who was killed in Carolina, Puerto Rico on June 25th. Chanell’s death is at least the 13th 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 news sources, “Chanell was a cosmetologist and based on her social media, was interested in fashion, makeup, and hair styles. She shared quotes from French fashion designer, Coco Chanel. Chanell shared a lot of playful, fun content, and clearly had strong friendships with people who are grieving her deeply.”
“Although the details of Chanell’s death are still being investigated, it is devastating that another trans woman has lost her life to senseless violence. In the face of tragedy, we choose to celebrate Chanell’s life while we acknowledge that these tragedies must stop.”
Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
According to Telemundo, Chanell was shot early Sunday morning on the PR-190 highway, behind a university in Carolina. Police Commissioner Antonio López Figueroa said, “The Criminal Investigation Corps (CIC) of police attached to Carolina is investigating all angles surrounding the violent death of a trans woman who had visible bullet wounds to her body. As established in this administration’s public policy, the investigation is being conducted according to protocol for the investigation of violent deaths of women and transgender people based on gender.”
More than 25,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to almost 70 cases, according to a 2022 report from Everytown for Gun Safety in partnership with HRC and The Equality Federation Support Fund, “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. HRC’s own tracking of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people found that between 2013 and 2022, more than two-thirds of all recorded fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people involved a firearm – including over three -quarters of all reported fatalities in 2022.
In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Chanell 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.
At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Puerto Rico are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Police in Puerto Rico do not collect LGBTQ+ identifying information. Although Puerto Rico’s hate crime laws expressly include both sexual orientation and gender identity, prosecutors in Puerto Rico rarely apply it.
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. Over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country during the 2023 legislative session, nearly 150 of which directly target transgender people. As of this writing, over 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law–more than any other year on record.
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.
Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.
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