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The number of trans people murdered in 2020 just surpassed the total for last year. It’s only been seven months

Josh Milton August 8, 2020
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A giant trans flag outside the Supreme Court as a community response to the landmark Supreme Court hearings that could legalise workplace discrimination, primarily against LGBTQ+ people. (Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Fears of a growing “epidemic” of violence against the trans community were seemingly cemented this week as the number of trans people in the US murdered this year surpassed the total for all of 2019, one of the country’s top trans rights groups said Friday (August 7).

In the US last year, the National Center for Transgender Equality said in a blog post, 26 trans, non-binary gender non-conforming people were fatally killed.

In just seven months, the figure has been surpassed in 2020, with 28 trans folk slain.

Against a backdrop of an unprecedented public health catastrophe, a cratering economy, a booming call for racial justice and the steady rollback of already flimsy LGBT+ rights, trans people have suffered the brunt of this multi-pronged crisis.

Her body was found framed by car headlights and punctured by bullet wounds. Her body was found mere moments after she attended the vigil of another homicide victim. Her body was found in the street, shot to death in broad daylight.

To a community already familiar with threats to their safety, a sense of numb surprise. The National Center for Transgender Equality leader urged reforms to police forces for “failing”, they said, to protect trans people and called on increased protective policies.

‘No one should be forced to live in fear,’ says head of top trans rights group. 

“Transgender people – and particularly Black and Latina transgender women – are marginalized, stigmatized and criminalized in our country,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, the organisation’s deputy executive director.

“They face violence every day, and they fear turning to the police for help.”

For years, activists have warned that such figures on trans killings are inaccurate and, instead, actually underrate the severity of the crisis at hand. Misgendering and deadnaming by law enforcement agencies and media outlets remain rife, and some trans victims never report incidents to police at all.

Heng-Lehtinen stressed the need for lawmakers to increase access to safe, affordable housing. But protective measures must not stop there.

“This crisis demands change to improve policing and hold the police departments accountable for their failure to protect transgender people,” Heng-Lehtinen said.

“But reforms must go further to disrupt the systemic racism and transphobia that push so many transgender people of colour into vulnerable situations, shut out of stable housing, secure jobs and loving homes.

“No one should be forced to live in fear.”

‘Another Black transgender woman is dead’.

Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, 32, was stabbed at a vigil for homicide victim Tyrell Penney in Portland.

But the night of mourning and reflection ended in tragedy, police said, when a “disturbance” occurred involving multiple vigil-goers, leaving Rhone-Spears and one other person injured.

Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears. (Facebook/GoFundMe)
Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears. (Facebook/GoFundMe)

She later died at the scene – detectives ruled that her death was a homicide. While tallies can vary, the National Center for Transgender Equality said Rhone-Spears was the 28th trans person killed this year.

“Another Black transgender woman is dead, killed in an act of violence while attending a vigil for a murder victim,” Heng-Lehtinen said.

“We must remember the names of the victims of these violent crimes and demand justice.”

The names of those murdered, the group said: Dustin Parker, Alexa Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, Toa Baja,
Yampi Méndez Arocho, Monica Diamond, Lexi, Johanna Metzger, Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Nina Pop, Helle Jae O’Regan, Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton, Jayne Thompson, Selena Reyes Hernandez, Brayla Stone, Merci Mack, Shaki Peters, Bree “Nuk” Black, Summer Taylor, Draya McCarty, Tatiana Hall, Marilyn Cazares, Tiffany Harris, Queasha Hardy, Brian “Egypt” Powers and Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears.

More: Crime, gender non-conforming, homicide, murder, non-binary, Trans, US

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