Sadly, 2022 has already seen at least 12 transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say “at least” because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported. In previous years, the majority of these people were Black and Latinx transgender women.
In 2021, the Human Rights Campaign tracked a record number of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people — with 50 fatalities tracked.
These victims, like all of us, are 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 HRC continues to work toward justice and equality for transgender and gender non-conforming people, we mourn those we have lost in 2022:
Amariey Lej, she/her/hers
A young Black transgender woman, Amariey Lei graduated from Woodland Hills High School in Wilkinsburg, a borough bordering Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was a dancer and beloved coach for the Lady Diamonds, a hip-hop and majorette dance team.
Duval Princess, she/her/hers
Duval Princess was just beginning to live as her authentic self at the time of her death. She was a well-known hairstylist and active member of the LGBTQ+ community in Jacksonville, Florida, where she was killed. Family members, friends and clients remembered her on social media days after her passing, referring to her as being “so sweet and genuine.”
Naomie Skinner, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman, was described by a friend as being a “very outstanding person.” Her sister said Naomie lived a “fabulous life.” Naomie was fatally shot by her boyfriend on February 12, 2022 near Detroit in Highland Park, Michigan.
Matthew Angelo Spampinato, a 21-year-old white trans man, was a victim of a hit-and-run car crash in New Castle, Delaware, on Feb. 9, 2022. Spampinato worked as a barista at Starbucks and was described as bright and kind by employees. One coworker said, “He was always so selfless. He would always ask how everybody was doing even when he wasn’t having a good day himself.”
Paloma Vazquez, a Latina transgender woman living in Houston, Texas, was a member of the Organización Latina de Trans en Texas, an organization for Latina trans women based in Houston. She was fatally shot on February 22, 2022. On social media, the founder of the organization wrote, “Vuela alto Paloma y que no te alcance nunca más el odio de este mundo. Descansa en paz,” which translates to, “Fly high Paloma and may the hatred of this world never reach you again. Rest in peace.”
Tatiana Labelle, a 33-year-old Black transgender woman, was a Chicago native who was loved by her friends and family. She was a fan of Mariah Carey and Patti Labelle. On March 18, 2022, Labelle was found dead in Chicago. Although details are currently unclear, her death has been ruled a homicide and detectives are continuing to investigate.
Kenyatta ‘Kesha” Webster, a Black transgender woman, was found dead in Jackson, Mississippi on Saturday, March 26, 2022. She had just turned 24-years-old in February. On April 1, more than a hundred people attended the balloon release honoring Webster. There, Webster’s mother passionately called for justice for her daughter’s death. “She had plenty of love. She didn’t deserve that.”
Fern Feather, who used both she/hers and they/them pronouns, was kind and free-spirited. The 29-year-old trans woman was known to bring joy to everyone around. Her friends remember her making others feel valued wherever she went. Fern Feather was killed in Morristown, Vermont on April 12, 2022.
Ray Muscat, who worked at a grocery store, was described by coworkers as a “kind soul who had a glowing smile.” On May 8, 2022, Muscat was shot and killed by his girlfriend in Independence Township, Michigan. According to police reporters, Muscat’s girlfriend also killed her brother and her body was found the next day; she died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
HRC works to shed light on this epidemic of violence in order to ensure victims’ lives are remembered with dignity, and to work to end the stigma that so many trans and gender non-conforming people face. HRC confirms these cases working with local advocates, the media and sometimes law enforcement. In doing this work, there are some cases that surface that are unclear -- where victims may have died by other means than violent acts by another individual. In these cases, HRC works to monitor developments closely and calls for further investigation into the causes and circumstances surrounding their deaths. To view these cases, visit HRC's "Additional Concerning Deaths of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Individuals" resource page.
These victims were killed by acquaintances, partners or strangers, some of whom have been arrested and charged, while others have yet to be identified. Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias. In others, the victim’s transgender or gender non-conforming status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness and/or survival sex work.
While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color -- particularly Black transgender women -- and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities.
HRC Foundation’s “Dismantling a Culture of Violence” report demonstrates how anti-transgender stigma, denial of opportunity and increased risk factors compound to create a culture of violence -- and provides clear ways that each of us can directly make an impact to make our society a safer place for transgender and gender non-conforming people.
As is too often the case in the reporting of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, many of these victims are misgendered in local police statements and media reports, which can delay our awareness of deadly incidents. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect for transgender and gender non-conforming people in both life and death, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on these communities.