Civil Liberties

16 Trans People (That We Know Of) Have Been Murdered this Year

At least 14 of them were black or Latina women.

With four months left in 2015, the number of trans people killed this year has already surpassed the 12 known murders of transgender people in 2014.

So far this year, at least 16 trans people have been killed. Most of them were black or Latina trans women. Just last week, Kandis Kapri, a black trans woman, was found dead in Phoenix, Arizona. Last Thursday, the remains of Elisha Walker, also a black trans woman, were found in a wooded area in Johnston County, N.C. Her alleged killer has been arrested and charged with murder.

According to news reports, most trans victims are killed as a result of intimate partner violence.

Elle Hearns, central region coordinator at GetEQUAL and strategic partner of #BlackLivesMatter, told AlterNet that these murders should be taken as signs of an epidemic.

"Two more confirmed murders of black trans women should be a numbing sensation to the core of America's consciousness,” she said. “It should be a wakeup call that we as people are missing the mark. Black trans women should never have to live in fear that today will be their last day. It is a national emergency that we must pay attention to by taking action to support and sustain the lives of trans women who are under attack."

In the past month alone, at least two transgender black people were killed in Detroit. Amber Moore, a 20-year-old trans black woman, was found shot to death in Palmer Park on the city’s west side. Less than a month earlier, Ashton O'Hara, a gender nonconforming person, was found dead in the city on July 14. O’Hara’s alleged killer has been arrested and charged with murder.

Federal authorities are investigating O’Hara's and Moore’s murders, according to the New York Daily News.

In a meeting set up by the Detroit Police Department last week, trans people complained that cops harass them when they enter Palmer Park because officers assume they are engaged in prostitution or other illegal activity.

“If you’re here, and you live in the Palmer Park area, and you come out to walk across the street to go and get something from the gas station,” Lilianna Reyes said, “You’re stopped and given a ticket for prostitution."

“And that’s an issue,” she continued. “The petty crimes of prostitution that are being focused on are overshadowing the violence, the hurt, the murdering of trans women.”

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, trans people of color are 6.2 times more likely to experience police violence. Hearns said one way to combat transphobic violence is to create economic structures for trans women so that they don’t feel pushed to the fringes of society.

“I believe a system has to be developed that provides trans women of color access to resources such as jobs, housing and affordable medical insurance,” she said. “We have to create a system that doesn't further penalize women for creating their own opportunities to generate money in a world that isn't concerned about providing that kind of support free of transphobia.”

Another problem is that media often misgenders trans murder victims, making it difficult to keep count of the real number of people killed in trans violence. A Google search of any of the trans people killed this year will yield local media reports that misgender a victim of trans violence. It occurred in the case of Lamia Beard, the first known trans person to be killed in 2015. Penny Pride, a trans black woman, was murdered in New Orleans, La., in February and she, too, was consistently misgendered by local media. A report by Nola.com connected Proud’s death to illegal prostitution in the area where she was found, even though police made no such link. When a BuzzFeed reporter questioned the journalist, Prescotte Stokes, about the report, his reaction was indignant.

“They called her a girl but said he was a man,” said Stokes “I assume he parades around as a transgender woman, but he is actually a man.”

“The harm of the media misgendering and victim-blaming is that it sends a message to the public that these homicides are not as serious, and that somehow transgender people deserve it,” Chia Jindasurat of NCAVP told BuzzFeed back in February. (The story was eventually updated to identify Proud as a trans woman.)

Some five months later, the media still have not learned to apply the appropriate pronouns to victims of transphobic violence. In late July, Shade Schuler, a black trans woman, was found dead in a field in Dallas. One local news outlet still has a live version of a report of Schuler’s death using male pronouns in an updated story.

The murders of transgender women are fairly under-reported in media, but should cause concern. In 2014, at least 50 percent of LGBTQ homicide victims were transgender women of color, according to NCAVP.

“A majority of these murders are happening from intimate partner violence,” Hearns said. “The men responsible for these murders have internalized transphobia so much because of the societal views reflected daily in their homes or via social media and that is causing them to discard the lives of women that they seek out. Society has a responsibility to dismantle that or there will continue to be blood on your hands. Interacting with police is a great fear for black people once again in this country. Being black and trans is an even greater fear that we live with because we never know when death will come."

Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior editor at AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @Russian_Starr.