Miss Trans America has been found murdered at her home in Massachusetts, making her the first trans woman to be killed in 2018.
Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien was found stabbed to death in her home on Friday evening.
Her husband, Mark Steele-Knudslien, has been arrested on suspicion of the murder after he confessed to police that he had killed her.
An autopsy found that she died from a loss of blood from a stab wound.
She also had blunt force trauma to the head.
The 42-year-old’s death has been ruled a homicide.
Her 47-year-old husband is to be arraigned this morning on a murder charge.
The two wed last year after moving to North Adams. Prior to the move, they lived in Adams for three years.
Christa Leigh was known for founding and running Miss Trans New England and Miss Trans America pageants.
She is believed to be the first transgender woman killed in the US this year.
Approximately 325 trans people were killed in the 12 months ahead of Trans Day of Remembrance, which took place in November.
25 of those were murdered in the US.
2017 saw a total of 28 trans people fatally shot or killed by other violent means making it the most violent year on record for trans people yet.
Last year preceded 2016 for being the most violent year with 27 recorded deaths of trans people due to fatal violence being recorded.
A large majority of the victims were trans women of colour.
However, the actual number of trans homicides is likely to be much higher than recorded due to misgendered victims and unreported murders.
These numbers are not accounting for death by suicide.
a 2016 report by the National Centre for Transgender Equality found that 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide with the report highlighting “pervasive mistreatment, harassment and violence in pretty much every facet of life whether that be in the schools, the workplace or family life.”
A similar report, published this year by LGBT+ group Stonewall, revealed that nearly half of transgender children have attempted suicide.
In 2015, The White House was urged to launch a formal investigation into the high rates of trans people murdered every year.
An official petition called for the administration to “Raise awareness” and to “take action to keep this community safe” so that they no longer have to “live in fear of losing their lives to hate and violence”.
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The violent treatment of the trans community stems from increasing transphobic attitudes in America.
The defence allowed defendants to blame a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity as a reasoning behind violent crimes committed against LGBTQ+ people.
It comes as the law banning the defence was signed off by Governor Bruce Rauner in August after the motion wasn’t opposed by anyone in the state House or Senate.
California was the first state to outlaw the defence, and many more states including New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are expected to follow suit this year.
The ‘gay panic’ defence often does not hold up in court and lawyers who have attempted to use it in cases have rarely been successful.
However, it is an important move to scrap the defence as critics say it gives people the chance to perpetuate hate crimes.
Monica Harrell, a chairperson for Equal Rights Washington, explained: “It (the defence) is saying you’re surprised that somebody might be different than you, whatever that difference is, and that that would allow you to initiate violence, and in some cases, lethal violence. That should never be a defence.”
D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the National LGBT Bar Association added that the panic defence was an “outdated relic reminiscent of a time when widespread antipathy was commonplace for LGBT individuals”.