Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2019
In 2018, advocates tracked at least 26 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women. These victims were killed by acquaintances, partners and 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 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, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable. 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 people.
As is too often the case in the reporting of anti-transgender violence, 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 expansive people in both life and death, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people.
Sadly, 2019 has already seen at least eleven transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. As HRC continues to work toward justice and equality for transgender people, we mourn those we have lost:
- Dana Martin, 31, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Montgomery, Alabama, on January 6. Reports stated that she was found in a roadside ditch in her vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd, an Alabama-based trans advocate, said that “she was a person that was loved by many.”
- Jazzaline Ware, a Black transgender woman, was found dead in her Memphis apartment in March. Her death is being investigated as a homicide, according to The Advocate. “Our community in Memphis is mourning the death of Jazzaline Ware, a Black trans woman and beloved friend,” said the Transgender Law Center in a press release. Further details are unknown as of May 31, 2019.
- Ashanti Carmon, 27, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Prince George's County, Maryland, on March 30. Few details are yet known about the crime, and the investigation is ongoing. “Until I leave this Earth, I’m going to continue on loving her in my heart, body, and soul,” said Philip Williams, Carmon’s fiancé. “She did not deserve to leave this Earth so early, especially in the way that she went out.
- Claire Legato, 21, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Cleveland on April 15. Local media reports that Legato was shot in the head after an argument broke out between her mother and the suspect. She was taken to a nearby hospital and died from her injuries on May 14. Friends and family took to social media to mourn Legato’s death, remembering her as someone who was “full of life.”
- Muhlaysia Booker, 23, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Dallas on May 18. Local media reported that Booker was found dead, lying face down with a gunshot wound near a golf course in east Dallas. In April, Booker was viciously attacked in what Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings described as “mob violence.” Officers say that there is no indication as of this point that the April attack is linked to Booker’s killing.
- Michelle 'Tamika' Washington, 40, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Philadelphia on May 19. Police responded to reports of shots fired in North Philadelphia’s Franklinville neighborhood, according to the Philadelphia Gay News. Washington, who was also known by the name Tameka, was found with several gunshot wounds and transported to Temple University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She is remembered by friends and loved ones as a beloved sister and “gay mother.”
- Paris Cameron, 20, a Black transgender woman, was among three people killed in a horrific anti-LGBTQ shooting in a home in Detroit on May 25, according to local reports. Alunte Davis, 21, and Timothy Blancher, 20, two gay men, were found dead at the scene and Cameron was taken to the hospital, where she died from her injuries. Two other victims were also shot but survived. “This case illustrates the mortal danger faced by members of Detroit’s LGBTQ community, including transgender women of color," Fair Michigan President Alanna Maguire said.
- Chynal Lindsey, 26, a Black transgender woman, was found dead in White Rock Lake, Dallas, with signs of “homicidal violence” on June 1, according to police. The Dallas Police Department has reached out to federal law enforcement to aid in the investigation. As of June 4, no further details were are available
- Chanel Scurlock, 23, a Black transgender woman, was found fatally shot in Lumberton, North Carolina, on June 6. Few details are yet public about the crime, but police told a local news outlet they have “great leads” in their investigation. “RIP baby,” wrote a friend on Facebook. “You [lived] your life as you wanted. I’m proud of you for being unapologetically correct about your feelings and expectations of YOU.”
- Zoe Spears, 23, a Black transgender woman, was found lying in the street with signs of trauma near Eastern Avenue in Fairmount Heights, Maryland, and later pronounced dead on June 13, according to local reports. While officials have not yet released her name, transgender advocate Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, identified Spears as the victim. “She was my daughter -- very bright and very full of life,” Corado told HRC. “Casa Ruby was her home. Right now, we just want her and her friends and the people who knew her to know that she’s loved.”
- Brooklyn Lindsey, 32, a Black transgender woman, was found dead on the front porch of an abandoned home in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 25, according to local news reports. The Kansas City Star notes that her death is currently being investigated as a homicide. “I love you, Brooklyn Lindsey,” wrote a friend on Twitter. “I shall live on for you. Rest in power, sista.”
Additionally, HRC is deeply concerned about the deaths of Johana ‘Joa’ Medina and Layleen Polanco, whose stories we are following closely. Medina, 25, died at a hospital in El Paso, Texas just hours after being released from ICE custody. She suffered severe health complications that went untreated while she was in detention, according to Diversidad Sin Fronteras. Her exact cause of death is not yet known. Polanco was found dead in a cell at Riker's Island on June 7. Her exact cause of death is also as of yet unknown.