Today, November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance—when the transgender victims of murder are remembered—is solemn, sad, and also focusing.
In the seven months since President Trump’s ban on trans troops went into effect, the impact of discrimination has been felt not just by service members but by their families, too.
In the 10 months since New York State lawmakers passed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law barring anti-transgender discrimination, the Movement Advancement Project has found that trans Americans living in more rural areas face significantly greater challenges, including harassment, violence and even murder, especially for trans people of color.
Transgender people are the new bogeyman, the hunted, the hated, and, more and more, the targeted. Worldwide, there has been a total of 331 cases of reported killings of trans and gender-diverse people between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30, 2019, according to Trans Respect Versus Transphobia.
If anyone needed a sign that the murders of transgender people here in the U.S. and around the world had reached epidemic stage, you didn’t need declarations from the Human Rights Campaign or the American Medical Association. I could feel the heat of it, on my face, as I lit one of the hundreds of candles at a Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony at Metropolitan Community Church of Hartford, Connecticut.
All of us in attendance lit one candle for each name on a list that included more than two dozen Americans and so many more trans people from around the world, the majority of whom lived and died in Brazil.
There were so many names, most of us returned to the altar two, even three times to light candles in memory of those we lost.
The Transgender Day of Remembrance, or TDoR as it’s often called, was created by journalist Gwen Smith. As I pondered what this day means to me, six and a half years since I came out as transgender, I asked its founder for her thoughts on this year’s observance.
“It is astonishing, humbling to see the event continue, but maddening to live in a world where we must continue to face so many killed each year at the hand of anti-transgender violence.”
“This year marks the 20th year of the Transgender Day of Remembrance as an annual event,” Smith told me in a Twitter DM, our usual method of communicating. She is a wonderful sounding board, unpaid copy editor and friend, often far too shy about her invaluable contributions to both journalism, and our community.
“It is astonishing, humbling to see the event continue, but maddening to live in a world where we must continue to face so many killed each year at the hand of anti-transgender violence. Rather than seeing the numbers decline, we’re seeing the number of deaths increase in a time when transgender people are being routinely scapegoated, treated as predators or worse.”
Smith maintains a list at tdor.info, and recommends the Trans Murder Monitoring project. HRC and The Advocate also keep a record, each of which conflicts with the other over how many murders in the U.S. are reported.
Why are trans people, most of them trans women of color, targeted? Some argue because of sex work, or the areas in which they lived.
Economic hardship is part of the transgender experience, from homelessness to housing discrimination, from workplace harassment and unemployment to sex work, according to the National Transgender Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Hate crimes against transgender and non-conforming individuals are up: There were at least 142 incidents of anti-trans violence with 160 victims, reported to the FBI in 2018 (the latest year available). That’s up from 106 incidents and 119 victims from the prior year.
For gender non-conforming individuals, the number of hate crimes doubled from 13 to 26. And those are just the ones that were reported; the actual number is no doubt far higher. Hate, in general, is up, if you just look at the timeline of any trans woman on Twitter, including my own.
And I benefit from my white privilege, so my personal hater index is far smaller than for other, more well-known journalists and advocates, especially those who are women of color.
These stories are harder to tell, admittedly. And while I’m the last one to seek sympathy for how I earn my living, it’s not made easier by police or media who consider legal identification records like driver licenses to be the last word on someone’s name or gender. There are also the feelings of grieving relatives that must be considered, some of whom choose to remember their loved ones as they saw them, not as they lived, or died. Misgendering is all too common.
Finally, there are the reports that take time to determine, such as the March 25th death by natural causes of 34-year-old Jazzaline Ware, and the suspicious death of Elisha Chanel Stanley of Pittsburgh, who died on Sept. 16. While many considered Stanley’s death the result of foul play, the medical examiner determined her death to be an accidental drug overdose.
Here are the stories of some of the other names Smith, The Advocate and HRC included this year of the 23 transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States who were murdered from October 2018 through October 2019:
Tydi Dansbury 37, was a black transgender woman, found shot on a street in Baltimore, Maryland, on Nov. 26, 2018.
Kelly Stough, aka Keanna Mattel, 36, was a black transgender woman shot on Dec. 7, 2018, during a “tussle” with a Detroit pastor and part-time security guard, Albert Weathers, 46. The Detroit News reported that he was to be tried for murder.
Dana Martin, 31, was a black transgender woman, apparently shot while she was driving in Montgomery, Alabama, on Jan. 6. “She was a person that was loved by many,” recalled Alabama trans activist Daroneshia Duncan-Boyd to Into.
Ashanti Carmon, 27, of Alexandria, Va., was a black transgender woman found shot to death March 31 on a street in Fairmount Heights, Maryland, just across the state line from Washington, D.C. Her fiancé, Philip Williams, described their six-year relationship as “the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Claire Legato, 21, a black transgender woman, was fatally shot during an argument over a tax refund check, between her mother and an armed man named James Booth in her mother’s Cleveland, Ohio, backyard on April 15. Friends and family remember her as someone who was “full of life.” No word on charges facing Booth since Legato’s death in May.
Muhlaysia Booker, 23, a black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Dallas, Texas, on May 18, one month after she was beaten by a mob at an apartment complex. ABC News reported that Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 33, was charged with Booker’s murder. Police are looking into whether her killing is related to the shooting death of another Dallas trans woman last October and the stabbing of yet another in April. “Such a beautiful spirit taken too soon,” said a friend of Booker. “She lived her life and loved all of who she was.”
Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington, 40, a black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 19. Washington, who was also known by the names Tameka and Michelle Simone, had studied nursing at the Community College of Philadelphia. The day after her death, police arrested Troy Bailey, 28, for her murder.
Paris Cameron, 20, a black transgender woman, was among three people killed in a horrific anti-LGBTQ shooting in a home in Detroit, Mich., on May 25, according to Detroit Free Press. The crime was motivated by the victims’ identity, Wayne County prosecutors said. Devon Robinson, 19, was arrested June 5 and has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of assault with intent to murder, and five counts of the use of a firearm in connection with a felony.
Chynal Lindsey, 26, a black transgender woman, was found dead in White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas, with signs of “homicidal violence” on the first day of Pride month, June 1, according to police. Those who knew Lindsey described her as “smiling” and “a person I had never seen mad.”
The body of Chanel Scurlock, 23, a black transgender woman, was found fatally shot in a field in Lumberton, North Carolina, on June 6. The Robeson County Sheriff’s Office arrested Javaras Hammonds, 20, of Lumberton, June 12, reported the News&Observer. He is charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Zoe Spears, 23, a black transgender woman, was found shot to death in Fairmount Heights, Maryland, on June 13, just blocks from where her friend, Ashanti Carmon, had been murdered, reported Fox 45 News. Spears worked in retail and had ambitions to become a lawyer. Trans advocate Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of Casa Ruby, told HRC that Spears was “very bright and very full of life.” Trans activist Earline Budd described Spears as a “vibrant young person.”
Brooklyn Lindsey, 32, a black transgender woman, was found dead in Kansas City, Missouri, on June 25, reported Fox 4, Kansas City. Neighbors said they heard an argument and gunshots at her house a few hours before Lindsey’s body was found. In July, police arrested Marcus Lewis, 41. He has been charged with second-degree murder among other charges.
Denali Berries Stuckey, 29, a black transgender woman, was found fatally shot in North Charleston, South Carolina, on July 20. She was a Charleston native and worked as a manicurist. Dominick Archield, 34, turned himself in to police Aug. 11 and faces murder charges.
Tracy Single, 22, a black transgender woman, was killed in Houston, Texas, on July 30 and left for dead in a gas station parking lot. In her memory, Houston lit its City Hall in the pink, blue, and white colors of the trans Pride flag and illuminated bridges as well. Joshua Dominic Bourgeois, 25, is charged with Single’s murder. Police said the two had been dating. She was also known as Tracy Williams.
Bubba Walker, 55, a black transgender woman, was killed in Charlotte, North Carolina, sometime in July in a house fire being investigated as a homicide. Bubba’s remains were found Sept. 10. Walker’s friend, Clarabelle Catlin, said Bubba was homeless at the time of her death. “She was a kind soul, She was always smiling and was a people person. She lit up everywhere she went and everyone loved her.”
Kiki Fantroy, 21, a black transgender woman, was fatally shot during an argument in Miami, FL, on July 31. Although police would not classify her murder as related to her transgender identity, Fantroy’s mother, Rhonda Comer, told the Miami Herald, “My understanding was she was killed because of her desire to be a woman.” Comer remembered her as having “a heart of gold” and being “a very loving person.”
Jordan Cofer, 22, was a white transgender man and the first of nine victims killed in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, on Aug. 4. The gunman was Cofer’s brother, and was killed in a shootout with police. “Jordan was probably one of the sweetest people you would ever meet, a true saint,” a friend told Splinter News. “But he was also very scared constantly.”
Pebbles LaDime “Dime” Doe, 24, a black transgender woman, was found murdered in a car in Allendale County, South Carolina, also on Aug. 4. Doe’s friends and family remembered her as having a “bright personality,” and being someone who “showed love” and who was “the best to be around.”
The body of Bee Love Slater, 23, a black transgender woman, was found burned beyond recognition in Clewiston, Florida, on Sept. 4, and identified two days later. Slater was remembered by her best friend Kenard Wade to WINK News as someone “with a really, really sweet heart” who “never harmed anyone.”
Jamagio Jamar Berryman, 30, a black gender non-conforming individual, was killed in Kansas City, Kansas, on Sept. 13.
Itali Marlowe, 29, a black transgender woman was found shot in her own car in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 20, and died at a hospital. Raymond Donald Williams, 23, was arrested and charged with Marlowe’s murder in October.
Brianna “BB” Hill, 30, a black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Kansas City, Missouri, on Oct. 14. She was also known as Breonna Be’Be Hill. Police say the alleged shooter remained at the scene until they arrived, and was arrested. His name has not yet been released.