Jaida Peterson, left, and Remy Fennell, right, were the two transgender women killed in Charlotte earlier this month. (Photo Credit: Human Rights Campaign)

We may be rounding the corner on the pandemic, but our most vulnerable community members remain under active threat. With Republican legislators targeting us in the halls of power and our transgender community increasingly unsafe in public, we all need to come together and protect those who need it most.

Last week, we learned that two of our Black transgender sisters in the Charlotte area, Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell, lost their lives to acts of violence within just days of each other. These women are the latest victims of horrific anti-transgender attacks that are positioning 2021 to become by far, the deadliest year on record for the transgender community. 

Three trans women have been murdered this year in North Carolina alone. And in an investigation conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, Charlotte was found by researchers to be the second-most dangerous city for transgender women in the entire country.

But the danger for the trans community doesn’t stop there. 

Earlier this month, lawmakers at the General Assembly introduced a raft of transphobic legislation, banning gender-affirming care for people under 21, excluding trans women from sports aligning with their identity and allowing for a wide-ranging “license to discriminate” for medical providers. This push comes at the same time as a number of states have introduced similar transphobic legislation, including my home state of Arkansas, which has passed all three. These cruel bills are nearly all from the same sources — organizations like ALEC, or the Alliance Defending Freedom ­— which give rough outlines of bills to states.  

So make no mistake ­— trans people in particular are under national attack. And this political climate feeds into already existing transphobia. Arkansas has seen a surge in suicide attempts after the passage of its bills, with many families considering leaving the state. Although the General Assembly has abandoned its ban on gender-affirming care, we know that many of these psychological scars can remain in our communities. And we know that hostility on the national and state level can embolden people to commit acts of violence. 

The violence of these laws also couples powerfully with the dangerous effects of white supremacy in law enforcement. Black trans women in particular are subject to aggressive policing, which criminalizes their presence in public spaces by equating them with sex workers. Moreover, police regularly misgender and deadname trans women when they are killed — this occurred in two of the three murders so far this year in North Carolina.

These dangers necessitate a response from our community. We all need to stand up to protect Black trans women. 

Along with Charlotte Pride, Campaign for Southern Equality and Transcend Charlotte, we’ve committed $10,000 to provide immediate emergency relief to Black trans women in Charlotte. And we’re challenging our supporters and allies to match those funds, to provide for the money to truly build a stronger, better future for Black trans women in the Charlotte area.

These donations will go directly toward the Black trans community and programs and organizations working to provide housing for transgender folks, including the House of Kanautica, Charlotte Uprising and Feed the Movement. These groups do vital work on the ground to fund and assist Black trans women, and more money will allow them to do more of their life saving work. You can donate to these organizations via our donation portal, at equalitync.org/CLTrelief.  

To quote our Education Policy Director, Rebby Kern, “We’re calling on Charlotte’s community to come together to support and protect Black trans women — who deserve joy, celebration, and support.”

The rising tide of white supremacy has emboldened new levels of hate in our streets, and we need you to join us in supporting our trans family when they need it most. We can work together to defeat bigoted bills and dismantle policing, and to build a better world where Black trans women can thrive.

Thank you for your support.

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