19 trans women reported murdered in the US this year

The number of trans women reported murdered in the US ballooned up to 19 yesterday, well beyond the record 14 trans women reported murdered in 2014. Last week saw the worst day many people can remember, as we learned of the deaths of three black trans women — Elisha Walker, Ashton O’Hara, and Kandis Capri — in a 24 hour period. Then last night we learned of the murder of Tamara Dominguez.

This year has been non-stop tragedy, as we have heard about murder and murder, almost all of them of black and Latina women. And these numbers are just for the US — this is a global epidemic of violence.

The names of the 19 trans women reported murdered in the US this year are: Papi Edwards, Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, Bri Golec, Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Yazmin Vash Payne, Penny Proud, Kristina Grant Infiniti, Mya Hall, London Chanel, Mercedes Williamson, India Clarke, KC Haggard, Shade Schuler, Amber Monroe, Kandis Capri, Elisha Walker, Ashton O’Hara, and Tamara Dominguez.

13 of these women were black; 17 were women of color.

You will see other publications say the number of trans women reported murdered is 17 or 18. That’s because some aren’t counting Bri Golec, who was stabbed to death by her father, because family members are saying she wasn’t a trans woman (friends have said she was). Letting family members be the experts on whether someone was a trans woman when a family member killed her seemingly because she was a trans woman is beyond absurd. There was briefly debate about whether Papi Edwards was a trans woman, too. I at least understand what is happening with Bri Golec, even if I find it completely disgusting. I do not understand how, at the time of #BlackLivesMatter, anyone can leave Mya Hall off the list seemingly because she was killed by the state, but that does seem to be happening as well.

I keep making the point of saying “reported murdered” because we don’t know how many trans women were killed this year. The FBI only started reporting crimes committed on the basis of gender identity in 2014, which they are required to do by the 2009 hate crimes law. In the six plus years that I’ve been working in media, there’s been a large push just to have the murders of trans women reported correctly, a project that was going on before I joined this work — and trans women are still so regularly misgendered in death. And the police are not exactly prioritizing finding and identifying trans woman murder victims.

So the fact that the number of reported murders has skyrocketed this year does not mean that more trans women have been murdered this year, or that we even know about all the trans women who have been killed. It does mean we have a little bit better picture of how bad the epidemic of violence against trans women of color is, though. It is my prayer that this knowledge can inspire some action that goes beyond the recent increase in celebrity “visibility” that clearly does nothing for the most vulnerable, and that could even be linked to an increase in violence.

There is currently a petition at WhiteHouse.gov calling for an investigation into this epidemic of violence. You can join the many voices I’ve seen on Twitter calling for LGBT organizations to hire trans women of color in leadership positions and focus on the violence they are facing, or drop the damn T from their names already. Loved ones of Tamara Dominguez and Kandis Capri are fundraising for their funeral costs — please help them. You can support the living by helping fund bail for a black trans woman in New York or supporting one of the many amazing organizations I’ve linked to before doing vital work with and by trans women.

But there’s nothing we can do to bring back these 19 women. I gather links for an article like this, and I look at their faces, at these trans women I will never get a chance to meet, so many of whom were just starting their lives. I think about what their friends and the world in general has lost. It can’t be like this. This has to end.

Header image via Planet Transgender.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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