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Crime

Nursing student Michelle Ramos Vargas becomes 30th known trans person to be killed in the United States so far this year

Patrick Kelleher October 5, 2020
Michelle Ramos Vargas

Michelle Ramos Vargas (LGBTQ Portland Facebook)

Nursing student Michelle Ramos Vargas has become the 30th known trans person to be killed in the United States so far this year, and the sixth killed in Puerto Rico in the same period.

Vargas’ body was found with multiple gunshot wounds in San Germán, Puerto Rico in the early hours of Wednesday (30 September).

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has said Vargas is at least the 30th known trans person killed in the United States in 2020 – however, they said the true figure is likely even higher.

Many trans and gender non-conforming people are misgendered following their deaths, making it even harder for non-profits to track the horrific level of violence faced by the community.

Trans woman Michelle Ramos Vargas hoped to become a nurse before she was brutally shot to death.

Vargas was in her mid-30s and was studying nursing at Ponce Paramedical College. She also worked as a bartender.

Local police are investigating whether the killing was a hate crime, according to the Associated Press.

Puerto Rico-based LGBT+ activist Pedro Julio Serrano slammed the government for not taking anti-queer violence seriously in the region.

“They are violating us, they are hunting us down, and they are murdering us while [Puerto Rico governor] Wanda Vázquez and her government chooses to look away,” Serrano said.

Racism, transphobia and misogyny too often play a role in the deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming pole, especially trans women of colour.

Meanwhile, Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said: “At least three transgender women have been killed in less than two weeks.

“This level of violence – any level of violence – is unacceptable. We are not doing enough to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially trans women.

“Racism, transphobia and misogyny too often play a role in the deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming pole, especially trans women of colour.

“As we are mourning the loss of Michelle, we must do more to bring this violence to an end. We must work together with lawmakers at all levels to ensure that policies have protections in place for trans people, and we must work to support our trans friends and family.”

Vargas’ killing is just the latest in a string of brutal deaths of trans people in Puerto Rico this year.

In April, the territory’s LGBT+ community was left in shock when three trans women were murdered in the space of just one week.

The bodies of Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, and Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, were found together in a charred car on 21 April.

Their deaths were preceded by Penélope Díaz Ramírez, 31, who was killed in a correctional centre on 13 April. Her death was not reported until 27 April.

More: Michelle Ramos Vargas, Puerto Rico, Transgender

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