Story at a glance
- While the Human Rights Campaign reported 26 transgender people killed in the U.S., other estimates put the number as high as 40.
- The FBI reports a 34 percent increase in hate crimes against transgender people between 2017 and 2018.
- A majority of transgender people killed in America this year were black women.
At least 26 transgender and gender nonconforming people were killed in the United States this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), with some outlets reporting higher numbers.
“We’re seeing the number of cases go up,” said transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who started the Transgender Day of Remembrance. “The last couple of years they’ve been growing and growing very quickly and that’s concerning.”
In November, monitoring group Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide reported 331 killings of transgender and gender-diverse people between October 2018 and September 2019. Thirty-one of those murders took place in the U.S.
Since then, seven more transgender people have died in the U.S., according to the "trans lives matter" web project, which reported 40 deaths this year, including suicides. The most recent was the death of Yahira Nesby, a black trans woman killed in Brooklyn on Dec. 19.
When Smith started tracking transgender deaths in 1998, widespread awareness of LGBTQ+ issues was limited and collecting information on these deaths was even more difficult. She used transgender networks on online forums, message boards and chat rooms as well as LexisNexis, an online resource for legal research.
“Back when I started the project you really didn’t hear the same sort of information on anti-trans murders,” Smith said. “You would look for stories of an ‘unidentified man wearing women’s clothing’ or ‘bearded lady found dead.’”
Transgender deaths are more likely to be reported now, Smith says, but victims are still often identified by their name and gender at birth, rather than those they identify with. Not only is this disrespectful to the victim, but it can also make it more difficult for the police to collect information about the victim.
“It’s not shouting into the darkness nowadays, most people are at least aware of trans issues on one level or another. We are more visible, there are trans people that are on your television every week, we didn’t have that when we started,” Smith said. “But the more visible we’ve become, the more people are speaking out against trans people, usually from a place of ignorance.”
Despite increased awareness in recent years, the transgender community still faces high rates of discrimination, which creates barriers to employment, health care and housing. This year the Federal Bureau of Investigation released statistics on hate crimes that showed a 34 percent increase in violent hate-based attacks on transgender people between 2017 and 2018. Nearly 9 in every 10 victims were transgender women, and 58 percent of all domestic deaths occurred in southern states, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign.
The issue is intersectional, Smith says, and is about race as much as it is about gender identity. Out of the 22 people the HRC report listed, all but one were black. Black transgender women are most at risk to be targets of violence, according to these reports.
“Transgender women of color are living in crisis, especially black transgender women,” said HRC President Alphonso David in their report.
As the crisis shows no signs of abating, Smith says it is all the more important to remember the names and lives of transgender people that are killed.
“If you’re talking about x number of people, this particular type of person, died this year, for many people that’s an abstract concept. There’s no name, there’s no person there. If you’re talking about someone that has a name, that has a face, that you can see a picture of, that’s a human, that’s someone like you and I,” Smith said.
Below are the names of transgender and nonconforming people killed in America this year. This list is not definitive, but includes those The Hill was able to verify.
Dana Martin, 31
Ellie Marie Washtock, 34
Jazzaline Ware, 34
Ashanti Carmon, 27
Claire Legato, 23
Muhlaysia Booker, 23
Michelle “Tamika” Washington, 40
Paris Cameron, 20
Chynal Lindsey, 26
Chanel Scurlock, 23
Zoe Spears, 23
Brooklyn Lindsey, 32
Denali Berries Stuckey, 29
Tracy Single, 22
Kiki Fantroy, 21
Bubba Walker, 55
Pebbles LaDime “Dime” Doe, 24
Jordan Cofer, 22
Bailey Reeves, 17
Bee Love Slater, 23
Jamagio Jamar Berryman, 30
Itali Marlowe, 29
Brianna “BB” Hill, 30
Nikki Kuhnhausen, 17
Alice Carter, 35
Yahira Nesby, 33