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A ‘free spirit’ and a ‘beautiful butterfly’ become 2021’s latest victims of ‘epidemic of trans violence’

Josh Milton January 30, 2022
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Nikki Turietta (L) and Zaniyah Williams. (Facebook)

A “free spirit” and a “beautiful butterfly” have become 2021’s latest victims of a gruelling “epidemic of trans violence” in the US.

Nikki Turietta, a 31-year-old trans woman, was found shot in the head inside her home in Albuquerque, Nex Mexico on 31 December, according to local broadcaster KOB4.

Turietta lived alone on Maggies Avenue. Her friends frantically raised the alarm after finding her unconscious through the window, leaving her loved ones questioning why someone would kill her.

Jen Struck, Turietta’s aunt, described her as a “completely free spirit” with an unceasing passion for travelling the world. She returned to her hometown a few years ago – but Struck now wishes she never came back.

Za’niyah Williams, a 21-year-old Black trans woman, was fatally shot 20 December after a hit-and-run car crash in Houston, Texas, TransGriot reported.

She was struck in the Oak Creek Village area between 1960 and T C Jester. Police pronounced her dead at the scene. Her identity was confirmed to the outlet by Williams’ mother.

On social media, Williams’ friends said she was “a very sweet and smart young lady and always ripped the runway when she dressed up”. Her cousin said: “You were loved and will always be a part of me! Fly high you beautiful butterfly.”

Both the victims’ identities were confirmed weeks after their deaths amid weeks of misgendering and deadnaming in the local press.

‘At least’ 53 trans people were killed in 2021. And the number keeps increasing

News of their deaths brings with it a disturbing realisation for activists: Last year’s toll, already the highest on record, has climbed only higher.

Now, “at least” 53 trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people were violently killed in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign which has been monitoring the wave of homicides for nearly a decade.

The LGBT+ advocacy group says “at least” because so often, trans homicide victims face discrimination even after death.

Two-thirds of victims are deadnamed and misgendered by the police and press, the HRC found. Meaning that each year’s figures – that continue to rise year on year – fail to grasp the full extent of what it means to be trans in America today.

The American Medical Association, a lobbying group, has said the rising brutality amounts to an “epidemic of violence“.

A candlelight vigil in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty)

“It is horrific that on the last day of 2021, yet another transgender person was killed in what has been a record year for fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people,” said Tori Cooper, who leads the HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement.

“Za’niyah Williams was a bright soul who at 21-years-old had the world in front of her,” she added in a separate tribute.

“We must create a society that respects Black trans women and all transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people. Although we honour them in death, they deserve to live, and they deserve justice for the crimes that too often end their lives.”

The community mourned across 2021: Tyianna AlexandraSamuel Edmund Damián Valentín, Bianca Bankz, Dominique Jackson, Fifty Bandz, Alexus Braxton, Chyna Carrillo, Jeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond ‘Kyree’ Sanders, Rayanna Pardo, Dominique Lucious, Jaida Peterson, Remy Fennell, Tiara Banks, Natalia Smüt, Iris Santos, Tiffany Thomas, Jahaira DeAlto Balenciaga, Keri Washington, Sophie Vásquez, Danny Henson, Whispering Bear Spirit, Serenity Hollis, Oliver ‘Ollie’ Taylor, Thomas Hardin, Poe Black, Novaa Watson, Aidelen Evans, Taya Ashton, Shai Vanderpump, Tierramarie Lewis, Miss CoCo, Pooh Johnson, Disaya Monaee, Brianna Hamilton, Kiér Laprí Kartier, Mel Groves, Royal Poetical Starz, Zoella Rose Martinez, Jo Acker, Jessi Hart, Rikkey Outommuro, Marquiisha Lawrence, Jenny De Leon, Angel Naira, Danyale JohnsonCris BleharNikai David and Ke’Yahonna Stone.

“You see the numbers rise and you don’t think it’s ever going to be someone you love,” Struck said.

“Some people are joking about it on Facebook – they don’t understand how hard it is.

“It’s just a number to them. Not to us.”

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