Young trans man shot dead and misgendered in death as authorities urged to stop ‘ignoring’ transphobic violence
Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a young transgender man, has been shot dead in Puerto Rico, becoming at least the seventh trans person killed there in 12 months.
Damián was found dead by a motorist on 9 January in Trujillo Alto, 15 miles outside of Puerto Rican capital San Juan. He had multiple gunshot wounds, according to reports.
To make matters worse, Damián was denied dignity in death by police, who incorrectly reported his gender.
Homicide detective Lt. José Padín told the San Juan Daily Star that the body was identified by Damián’s parents, who used his birth name but said he “would always prefer for others to call him Samuel, Sam or Sammy when he was out in the streets”.
There have been no arrests over the killing, and police have not announced any suspects in the case. It is the seventh known murder of a trans person in Puerto Rico in the past 12 months, and at least the second violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021.
Trans people in Puerto Rico face ‘unacceptable’ wave of violence.
Tori Cooper of Human Rights Campaign said: “We’re only a few weeks into the new year, and we have already seen several deaths of transgender and non-binary people.
“This is unacceptable. Samuel did not deserve to die — none of the LGBTQ people who have been killed in Puerto Rico or anywhere else deserved to have their lives cut short. We must take action now and demand that this violence end.”
HRC added: “Police in Puerto Rico do not collect LGBTQ-identifying information. Although Puerto Rico’s hate crime laws expressly include both sexual orientation and gender identity, prosecutors in Puerto Rico rarely apply it.
“In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Samuel was initially misgendered in police and media reports. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement and elected offices.”
Pedro Julio Serrano of LGBT+ group Puerto Rico Para Todas has hit out at authorities, saying: “One of the most serious problems we have with the police and the Department of Justice is that they do not identify LGBTTIQ + people in their incident reports. Almost every time an LGBTTIQ + person is murdered, it is the community itself that identifies them.
“The police and justice fail to comply with their protocols and it even seems that they want to ignore, make invisible and minimize the serious problem of the wave of homophobic and transphobic violence that haunts us like never before.”
An astounding number of trans murder victims are misgendered by police.
In addition to denying dignity to the deceased, misgendering murder victims can erode trust in the police among family, friends and the local LGBT+ community, making it harder to achieve justice.