In Memoriam: 2020

Year Sees Record-Breaking Deaths in Transgender Community

The climate being espoused from the White House, Conservative groups and individuals that are present today is one that is rife with hatred, malice and more. This is especially noticeable toward those who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming.

The 2020 year is not yet over, and qnotes knows, unfortunately, that the numbers will continue to rise.

On Nov. 20, the world observes the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The annual memorial “seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence,” remarked Gwendolyn Ann Smith, founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance. “I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”

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The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), who has compiled the growing list of those lost since 2013, shared, “These victims were killed by acquaintances, partners or strangers, some of whom have been arrested and charged, while others have yet to be identified. Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias. In others, the victim’s transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness and/or survival sex work.

“While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women — and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities.”

PFLAG National and the Transgender Day of Remembrance “Trans Lives Matter” site also provided additional listing of transgender deaths for 2020. PFLAG shared, “As PFLAGers — as human beings — it is imperative that we boldly, loudly, and publicly honor those we have lost to anti-trans violence and hate, and speak out against violence anywhere we see it. … Simultaneously, as we honor those we have lost, we must use this as an opportunity to strongly recommit to trans inclusion at all levels of our work, providing support to people who are trans and gender-expansive and to their families and friends; providing education to those who still lack the understanding necessary to be good allies; and advocating for protections at all levels of government … There has been so much harm done, and we have an opportunity to help end that harm. We advocate for getting out the vote in the upcoming election, and keeping in mind voting for legislators who will work to protect and support our trans loved ones.”

In addition to the horrors of death, some of the victims are misgendered in police statements and through other outlets, adding to the pain of loss. Also, some of the victims’ deaths were not reported and classified as uncategorized and could have been considered suspicious.

“This crisis demands change to improve policing and hold the police departments accountable for their failure to protect transgender people. But reforms must go further to disrupt the systemic racism and transphobia that push so many transgender people of color into vulnerable situations, shut out of stable housing, secure jobs and loving homes. No one should be forced to live in fear,” said National Center for Transgender Equality Deputy Executive Director Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen.

It is with deep sorrow that the following individuals are honored.

 

Dustin Parker

Dustin Parker, 25, was fatally shot in McAlester, Okla. early on New Year’s Day. His employers released a statement remembering Parker saying, “He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives.”

 

Neulisa Luciano Ruiz

Neulisa Luciano Ruiz was fatally shot in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Feb. 24. According to Metro Puerto Rico, members of her community knew her as “humble” and “noble.”

 

John Scott Devore/Scottlyn Kelly Devore

John Scott Devore/Scottlyn Kelly Devore, 51, was reportedly genderfluid. They went missing on March 12 in Augusta, Ga. A suspect was charged with murder on March 20. A body was found on March 30, but was not identified nor confirmed.

 

Yampi Méndez Arocho

Yampi Méndez Arocho, 19, was killed in Moca, Puerto Rico, on March 5. A transgender man, Arocho shared his love for basketball and the NBA, wearing Miami Heat apparel on social media. The biography line on his Facebook reads simply, “Humility Prevails.”

 

Monica Diamond

Monica Diamond, 34, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Charlotte, N.C. on March 18. Diamond was active in the Charlotte LGBTQ and nightlife communities and was the co-owner of an event promotion company. She also was the co-CEO of the International Mother of the Year Pageantry System — a pageant that honors LGBTQ mothers.

 

Lexi “Ebony” Sutton

Lexi “Ebony” Sutton, 33, a transgender woman, was fatally stabbed in Harlem River Park in Harlem, N.Y. on March 28. “I really looked up to her because of her tolerance and respect,” said Lavonia Brooks, a friend of Lexi. “Lexi had a beautiful heart, she was very gifted.”

 

Ashley Moore

Ashley Moore, 26,  was found dead on April 1 with unexplained and serious injuries outside a Newark, N.J. YMCA. Her body was cremated without an autopsy. Four months later, police finally started to investigate her death.

 

 

Johanna Metzger

Johanna Metzger, a transgender woman, was killed in Baltimore, Md. on April 11. According to reports, she was visiting a Baltimore recovery center from Pennsylvania at the time.

 

Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos

Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 21. Ramos was killed alongside Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21. According to reports, Ramos was visiting the island on vacation and was set to return to her home in Queens, N.Y., at the end of the month. On May 1, two men were charged under federal hate crimes law for Ramos’ death.

 

Layla Pelaez Sánchez

Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 21. Sánchez was killed alongside Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos. According to reports, Sánchez had recently moved to the island and was living in the Tejas neighborhood in Las Piedras. On May 1, two Puerto Rican men were charged under federal hate crimes law for Sánchez’s death.

 

Penélope Díaz Ramírez

Penélope Díaz Ramírez, a transgender woman, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 13. “Penélope did not deserve to die. Transgender people do not deserve to die. Every single advocate, ally, elected official and community member must stand up in light of this horrific news and say ‘No more.’ What we are doing is not enough,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.

 

Nina Pop

Nina Pop, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Sikeston, Mo. on May 3. She was deeply loved by her family, friends and community, according to her Facebook page.

 

Helle Jae O’Regan

Helle Jae O’Regan, 20, a transgender woman, was killed in San Antonio, Texas, on May 6. O’Regan often spoke out on Twitter against injustice, including LGBTQ inequality, the prison industrial complex and the need to decriminalize sex work. Damion Terrell Campbell, 42, was charged with O’Regan’s murder.

 

 

Jayne Thompson

Jayne Thompson, 33, a white transgender woman, was shot and killed by a police officer on May 9 in Orchard Mesa, Colo. during what appeared to have been a mental health crisis. and was misgendered in initial news reports. No charges were filed against the officer concerned.

 

Tony McDade

Tony McDade, 38, a Black transgender man, was killed in Tallahassee, Fla. on May 27. His friends and family shared how he was an energetic, giving person with a big heart.

 

Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells

Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, 27, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 9. One personal friend posted online, “Dom was a unique and beautiful soul who I am lucky to have known personally … We need to fight!! We need to do more!!!! We will get justice.”

 

Riah Milton

Riah Milton, 25, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Liberty Township, Ohio on June 9. In March, she posted the status “Never been scared to struggle. Imma get it eventually” — a comment highlighting her resilience and optimism as a person facing a transphobic, misogynist and racist society.

 

Selena Reyes-Hernandez

Selena Reyes-Hernandez, 37, a transgender woman, was killed in Chicago, Ill. on May 31. “We have lost a beloved member of our trans family because of hate — hate that has corrupted our country’s soul and that shatters lives and futures every day,” said HRC’s Cooper.

 

Name Unknown

On June 6 the decomposed body of a young Black transgender person was found in an abandoned building in Chicago, Ill. Their gender presentation suggests that they identified as a transgender woman. The age was established as between 16-20. The case was unreported and uncategorized.

 

Brian “Egypt” Powers

Brian Powers, 43, a Black transgender person, was killed in Akron, Ohio, on June 13. Powers worked at a local catering company and is remembered for wearing long, colorful braids — “unicorn braids,” as Powers called them.

 

Brayla Stone

Brayla Stone, 17, a Black transgender girl, was found killed in Little Rock/Sherwood, Ark. on June 25. “Brayla Stone was a child. A child, just beginning to live her life. A child of trans experience. A Black girl. A person who had hopes and dreams, plans and community,” said HRC’s Cooper. On Sept. 4, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.

 

Merci Mack

Merci Mack, 22, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Dallas, Texas, on June 30. On her social media, she had recently posted that she enjoyed baking and that she was looking forward to returning to work. On July 8, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.

 

Draya McCarty

Draya McCarty, 28, was found dead on June 30 in Baton Rouge, La. She, along with five other Black transgender women were killed between June 25 and July 3 in what was considered an epidemic of violence against Black transgender women. The circumstances of her death are not yet known.

 

Tatiana Hall

Tatiana Hall, 22, was reported to have been murdered in Philadelphia, Pa. on or around June 30. Very little is known about what happened to her — possibly due to deadnaming by police and media.

 

Shaki Peters

Shaki Peters, 32, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Amite CIty, La. on July 1. “In just four days, we have seen the deaths of at least three transgender and gender non-conforming people, including Shaki Peters. This horrific spike in violence against our community must be an urgent call to action for every single person in this nation,” said HRC’s Cooper.

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Bree Black

Bree Black, 27, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Pompano Beach, Fla. on July 3. “These killings are being fueled by the deadly combination of racism and transphobia, and they must cease. We must come together as a community and demand justice for those who were taken from us,” said HRC’s Cooper.

 

Summer Taylor

Summer Taylor, 24, a white non-binary person, was run over by an automobile in Seattle, Wash. on July 4. Taylor was participating in the Black Femme March in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. Taylor worked full time at Urban Animal veterinary hospital.

 

Marilyn Monroe Cazares

Marilyn Monroe Cazares, 22, a transgender Latina, was killed in Brawley, Calif. on June 13. Mindy Garcia, an aunt of Cazares, said she “loved to sing and dance” and “never bothered anyone.”

 

Dior H Ova

Dior H Ova, 32, who some reports identify as Tiffany Harris, a Black transgender woman, was killed in the Bronx, N.Y. on July 26. On Aug. 13, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.

 

Queasha D Hardy

Queasha D Hardy, 22, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Baton Rouge, La. on July 27. Hardy, a hairstylist, was described as being loyal, loving, “always smiling,” “the life of all parties” and “truly one of a kind.”

 

Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears

Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, 32, who sometimes used the name Rocky Rhone, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Portland, Ore. on July 28. According to Facebook, she studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and was the owner and founder of International Barbie, a Portland-based clothing brand.

 

Kee Sam

Kee Sam, 24, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Lafayette, La., on Aug. 12. “We must all speak up in support of trans and gender non-conforming people and affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter,” said HRC’s Cooper.

 

Elie Che

Elie Che, 23, was found unresponsive on Orchard Beach in he Bronx, N.Y. on Aug. 31. She was repeatedly deadnamed by police and local media. The cause of death was ruled as drowning but was uncategorized.

 

Isabella Mia Lofton

Isabella Mia Lofton, 21,  was found partly unclothed and wrapped in a plastic tarp on the sidewalk in Brooklyn, N.Y on Sept. 7. Authorities claimed she was intoxicated and had fallen from a building.The cause of death was uncategorized.

 

Aerrion Burnett

Aerrion Burnett, 37, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Independence, Mo. on Sept. 19. Her friends and family shared “if you wanted to have a good day, you need to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.”

 

Mia Green

Mia Green, 29, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Philadelphia, Pa. on Sept. 28. Her friends and family shared how “her smile was so perfect and so contagious. She made me laugh.”

 

Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas

Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, a transgender woman from Puerto Rico in her mid-30s, was killed in San Germán, Puerto Rico on Sept. 30. “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,” said HRC’s Cooper.

 

Felycya Harris

Felycya Harris, 33, a transgender woman, was killed in Augusta, Ga. in October. Harris was an interior decorator who ran her own company, where she enjoyed lending her eye to improve the surroundings of others.

 

Brooklyn Deshuna

Brooklyn Deshuna, 20, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Shreveport,

La. on Oct. 7. Deshuna attended Bossier Parish Community College and studied cosmetology.

 

Sara Blackwood

Sara Blackwood, a transgender woman, was killed in Indianapolis, Ind. on Oct. 11, recognized as National Coming Out Day. She enjoyed playing video games and was a fan of the show “My Little Pony.”

 

 

Earlier in October, HRC released a video that has become part of an intended series highlighting the Trump administration’s failure to keep LGBTQ individuals safe. The first installment focused on the disproportionate violence transgender people, and especially transgender women of color face.

HRC’s Cooper said, “This year, there have been more reported cases of violence against trans women, and particularly Black trans women. Trump’s administration — they are killing us with policy.”

“Dehumanizing rhetoric, especially by political leaders like President Trump, has a real-life consequence for the community, particularly transgender women of color and especially Black transgender women. As the presidential campaign has hit its crescendo, so too have the attacks coming from Trump, his administration and his allies. They have spent millions on ads spewing hate and lies about the transgender and gender non-conforming community, and have attacked their right to health care, right to serve and right to live openly — dehumanizing and denying them the dignity they deserve at every opportunity,” HRC’s president Alphonso David added.

 

• • • • •

Additional 2019 Memorials

Since qnotes published their 2019 list of transgender violent crimes deaths, the following names were made available from PFLAG and other resources that allow for the completion for that calendar year. They are:

Corbin Ray Bach, 23, Paducah, Ky., Oct. 6, 2019

Christine Zephier, 23, Mankato, Minn., Oct. 10, 2019

Daphne Dorman, 44, San Francisco, Calif., Oct. 11, 2019

Nikki Kuhnhausen, 17, Ldarch Mountain, Ore., Dec.7, 2019

Angel Rose Garcia, 21, Hyattsville, Md., Dec. 10, 2019

Alice “Baby Alice” Carter, 35, Washington, D.C., Dec. 18, 2019

Yahira Nesby, 33, Brooklyn, N.Y., Dec. 19, 2019

Mia Penny, 26, Washington, D.C., Dec. 29, 2019

 

Photo Credits and Resources: Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, Transgender Day of Remembrance, PFLAG National, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, them.us, pcion.conepop.com.br and others

 

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Posted by Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen is QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director. She can be reached at specialassignments@goqnotes.com and 704-531-9988, x205.

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