The Human Rights Campaign is both saddened and infuriated by the deaths of at least six transgender and gender non-conforming people whose lives have been tragically and inhumanely taken through violent means, including through gun and interpersonal violence, in 2023.
Since 2013, the Human Rights Campaign has tracked incidents of fatal transgender violence— the same year the Federal Bureau of Investigation began reporting on hate crimes motivated by anti-transgender bias— and providing action items that can help end the violence.
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 2023:
Tortuguita, a 26-year-old Indigenous queer and non-binary environmental activist and community organizer, is remembered as a “radiant, joyful, beloved community member” who “brought an indescribable jubilance to each and every moment of their life,” and “fought tirelessly to honor and protect the sacred land of the Weelaunee Forest. They took great joy in caring for each and every person that they came across."
Tortuguita was shot and killed by Georgia state troopers in Atlanta, Georgia on January 18, 2023 during an ongoing protest alongside other self-described “forest defender” protestors against a proposed $90 million, 85-acre police training facility deemed “Cop City” by activists, slated to be built in the Weelaunee Forest in Atlanta.
In a GoFundMe started to help cover funeral costs for Chashay Henderson, the 31-year-old Black transgender woman is described as “a bubbly spirit with a down to earth, tell it like it is personality,” who was “as beautiful as can be, inside and out.” The GoFundMe also notes that Cashay is survived by her father, mother, sister, and niece, as well as other family and “many, many friends.” Chashay was shot in Milwaukee on February 26, 2023.
Maria Jose Rivera Rivera, a 22-year-old Latina transgender woman, was described by her immigration lawyer as “lively, funny, and dynamic” and “a joy to work with.” On January 21, 2023, Maria Jose was found fatally shot in Houston, one of two people found dead at an apartment complex in an apparent murder-suicide. Her death is at least the fifth violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023.
On a GoFundMe page for Zachee Imanitwitaho’s funeral expenses, the Black transgender woman was described as someone who was “well-loved by family, friends, and coworkers, and that she lived her life bravely and authentically.” She immigrated to the U.S. from Rwanda and was killed on February 3, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky in the parking lot of her workplace.
Unique Banks, a 21-year-old Latina trans woman, was killed in a mass shooting along with her mother, Alexsandra Olmo, on January 23, 2023, in Chicago. Unique’s father Omar Burgos said that his “heart is torn apart” and that he had hoped for her to live with him in Florida. Three other people, including two other trans women, were also attacked during the shooting, leaving them in critical condition.
According to local news, KC Johnson's partner Bulla Brodzinski remembered her as being “kind and caring." The 27-year-old white transgender woman who was killed in Wilmington, North Carolina on January 14, 2023, after being declared missing on January 13.
Jasmine “Star” Mack’s sister, Pamela Witherspoon, said that Jasmine was “a sweet person.” She also said that her sister “loved to sing gospel songs and was an excellent actor.” The 36-year-old Black transgender woman who was killed in Washington, D.C. on January 7, 2023.
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 by working with local advocates, the media and sometimes law enforcement.
In doing the 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.
Most of these victims were killed by partners and acquaintances, others by 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.
In this report, we shed light on the epidemic of violence taking the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people. We remember the individuals who were taken from us in 2022 and provide analysis of data we have collected on fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people since 2013 — the year the Federal Bureau of Investigation began reporting on hate crimes motivated by anti-transgender bias.
Our “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.
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