Remembering the 20 trans individuals who have been killed in the US this year

This year, 20 trans individuals have been tragically murdered in the United States.

Transgender women in the United States in particular face extraordinarily high levels of violence. Last year, 26 trans individuals were killed in the country, and a majority of these deaths were Black trans women.

Of course, these are only the murders that have been officially documented, and have taken place in the United States – it’s likely that there are many more undocumented murders of trans individuals elsewhere in the world.

While activists around the world fight for trans equality and acceptance, it’s important to remember the members of the community who have tragically lost their lives, often at the hands of intolerance and bigotry.

Dustin Parker, 25

Dustin Parker, a 25-year-old taxi driver, was fatally shot early on New Year’s Day in McAlester, Oklahoma, and was found in the driver’s seat at approximately 6.30am. It has been reported that several gunshots had been fired at the taxi. Dustin was a founding member of the McAlester chapter of Oklahomans for Equality, an LGBTQ rights group, and leaves behind four children and a wife called Regina. “Rover Taxi is devastated at the loss of a member of our Rover family,” said Dustin’s employer Brian West, who organised a Facebook fundraiser to help his family. “Dustin was a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father, and generous to a fault. He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly, and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives. His bright, young life was taken far too early. Please keep his loved ones in your thoughts as we all try to pull together to get through these difficult times. Dustin will be missed, but never forgotten.”

Neulisa Luciano Ruiz

According to media reports confirmed by Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy groups, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, known as Alexa, was killed in a park in Toa Baja, a city around 15 miles west of capital San Juan, on 24 February. “A Puerto Rican transgender woman appears to have been harassed for using the women’s bathroom and then murdered. The attack was recorded & shared on social media,” wrote civil rights organisation Lambda Legal on Twitter. “This violence is completely unacceptable. Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are and treated with dignity and respect. Puerto Rican law enforcement authorities must expeditiously and thoroughly investigate this horrific crime, including its posting on social media.” David Begnaud of CBS News reported that police responded to social media accusations that Alexa was “peeping on people” in a public bathroom. Police found no proof and the complainant didn’t file charges after finding out Alexa was homeless. However, he said “a narrative spread on social media” about her. Alexa was reportedly killed nine hours after the accusations were made, and local news outlets have reported that her murder was captured on video and shared on social media.

Yampi Méndez Arocho, 19

Yampi Méndez Arocho, a 19-year-old transgender man, was killed on 5 March in Moca, Puerto Rico, due to two gunshot wounds in the face and two in the back. According to reports, Yampi’s mother contacted the police because he was assaulted by a woman just five hours prior. Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of LGBTQ advocacy group Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, said he was disappointed with authorities for how they handled Yampi and Alexa’s deaths. He told Puerto Rican media outlet Primera Hora: “If the treatment of Yampi’s murder is added to the mismanagement of Alexa’s murder, we are talking about a crisis of confidence of the LGBTQ communities towards the police, because they are failing to comply with their own protocols of handling cases with dignity and sensitivity with the trans community.”

Monika Diamond, 34

On 18 March, Monika Diamond was killed after a man, identified as Prentice Bess, 32, entered the ambulance she was in and fired gunshots. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reported that the 34-year-old was active in the LGBTQ scene in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was the co-owner and founder of Ncphyne Promotion Company LLC; an events promotion company about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. She was also the co-CEO of the International Mother of the Year Pageantry System, which honours LGBTQ mothers. Paying tribute to Monika, HRC wrote: “Through her work, Diamond spent her adult life creating community and spaces for LGBTQ people in Charlotte and beyond to come together and celebrate their lives. She was a chosen mother to countless. She was a business owner, a loving friend and she did not deserve to have her life taken from her.”

Lexi “Ebony” Sutton, 33

Lexi “Ebony” Sutton was fatally stabbed in the neck in Harlem on 28 March. The 33-year-old was reportedly sat on a park bench near Harlem River Park when she was approached by an unidentified assailant. After an argument ensued, the suspect stabbed her in the neck and fled the scene on a red scooter. Lexi was then rushed to NYC Health & Hospitals/Harlem, but unfortunately, her injuries were too severe and she tragically passed away. Witness Lavonia Brooks, a friend of the victim, told The New York Post that they came into conflict over a stolen wig. She revealed: “It was a blonde wig. [The victim] just walked past her and took the wig off her head. That prompted the other person to attack her. Someone said ‘Oh s–t! She cut her throat.’ There was a dude riding one a red scooter trying to pick up one of the girls. [The attacker] must have hopped on the back of a date’s motorcycle.” Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, called the attack “horrifying”. He wrote on Twitter: “My heart breaks for this woman and for her family. We WILL find the person responsible for this heinous crime and bring them to justice. New York City stands with our trans community, now and always.”

Johanna Metzger

Johanna Metzger was fatally stabbed in Baltimore, Maryland on 11 April. The stabbing took place on the 2200 block of Highview Avenue, but few other details about the crime are known. Metzger was originally from Pennsylvania and was attending a recovery centre in Baltimore when she was stabbed, reports WMAR. Her mother said that Metzger was a college graduate and had taught herself to play several instruments.Her death was confirmed by LGBTQ organisation, the Baltimore Safe Haven and the Baltimore City LGBTQ Affairs, which is a division of the mayor’s office. Writing on Facebook, the Baltimore City LGBTQ Affairs wrote: “We are heartbroken to report another trans woman has lost her life to violence here in Baltimore. Today, we lift up the name and honor the life of Johanna Metzger. We wish comfort to those whose life she touched.”

Penélope Díaz Ramírez, 31

Penélope Díaz Ramírez, a 31-year-old transgender woman, was killed at the Bayamon correctional complex in Puerto Rico on 13 April. Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said she’s never “seen so many reports of deaths of our transgender and gender non-conforming community in such a short time in one location.” She continued: “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.”

Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, and Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32

The bodies of Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, and Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, were discovered in a burnt-out car in the coastal town of Humacoa, in Puerto Rico on 22 April. Speaking to NBC, Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesperson for the Broad Committee for the Search of Equity said: “They are hunting us.” Ivana Fred, from the same group, added: “We trans people deserve to live in peace, equality and freedom. Enough of so much hate.”  Francheska Alvarado, the sister of Serena, found about her death from a phone call. “I was in complete shock and disbelief because my sister was a great person,” she said. “She was never in the streets. She was just herself.” She called on the police to investigate an alleged Snapchat video which showed her sister, the other victim, and two men lying on a bed, hours before the women were found murdered. Five out of 11 trans people killed in the United States this year have taken place in Puerto Rico.

Nina Pop, 28

Nina Pop, a 28-year-old transgender woman, was murdered on 3 May in Sikeston, Missouri. Nina was last seen alive at a party in Silkeston, where she was seen walking around a field with a drink. Her body was discovered in her apartment. Although no motive has yet been named, the police confirmed they were looking into the possibility that it was a hate crime. Responding to Nina’s death, Tori Cooper from the HRC said: “We must be outraged by this news and we must channel that outrage into action immediately. These crimes must be reported, investigated and prosecuted. These lives must be mourned, honored and fought for. What we are doing is not enough. HRC mourns alongside all those who know and loved Nina, and we will continue our tireless fight to ensure a future where living one’s truth can never become a death sentence.”

Helle Jae O’Regan, 20

Helle Jae O’Regan was murdered on 6 May in San Antonio, Texas. The 20-year-old was stabbed at her job in a local barbershop. Her attacker, Damion Terrell Campbell, 42, has been charged with her murder. It’s believed that her murder was a random attack, but it is also being investigated as a possible hate crime. Speaking to KSAT, who deadnamed Halle, her friend Luke Tyler said: “Every time I saw her, she smiled. She’d do anything for you. She was a caring person. I never saw her in a bad mood. Being trans is so hard, and her life was hard, but she lived like it was the best day of her life every day.” Halle was proud of her trans identity, and in a post on Transgender Day of Remembrance, posted: “I was looking at the pictures I used to take before I transitioned versus now and it made me realize I’m way happier than I used to be. I love myself now. Thank you to everyone who’s ever supported me and to anyone who hasn’t I hope you come around. I’m happy and proud to be myself.”

Tony McDade, 38

Tony McDade, a 38-year-old Black transgender man, was shot and killed by police officers on Wednesday (27 May) in Tallahassee, Florida. WFSU News, who misgendered McDade along with the Florida Police Department, reported that he was involved in a stabbing on Tallahassee’s Southside, where one adult male was killed. At the scene, Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell told reporters McDade then “fled on foot” and said he was described to officers as a “black female, wearing all black, bald, armed with a pistol and a knife.” McDade was shot by an unnamed white officer and succumbed to his injuries in hospital. Local news said McDade was unarmed, which has since been denied by authorities, who claimed he “made a move consistent with using the firearm against the officer.”

Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells

Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a Black trans woman, was killed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 9 June. Her dismembered body was found in a river. A friend of Dominique’s, Madelyn Morrison, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she loved fashion, music, people and “having fun and being vibrant.” The friend added that Dominique made outfits and wigs for people, as freelance fashion work and that she organised the Rock the Runway: A Trans Empowerment Fashion Show at the William Way LGBT Community Center last year. In a statement, Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs told Insider: “The pain of such a loss is always difficult, but it is especially deep as we are in the midst of Pride Month—a season typically filled with joy and celebration for many in our community. As thousands take to the streets to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, it is critical we remember that this includes Black trans lives. Dominique Rem’mie Fells’s life mattered.”

Riah Milton, 25

On 9 June, 25-year-old Black trans woman Riah Milton was murdered in Liberty Township, Ohio. A group of three people lured her into a park and shot her to death. Kaleb Marshall Tooson, aged 18, has been arrested and charged with Riah’s murder, as well as aggravated assault. An unidentified 14-year-old has also been charged with complicity to aggravated robbery, murder, and tampering with evidence. A warrant is active for the arrest of Tyree Jeffrey Cross, aged 25. If caught, he faces charges of robbery, complicity to murder, complicity to aggravated robbery and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. According to Riah’s Facebook, she was a home health aide and studied at the University of Cincinnati. Speaking to WCPO, Riah’s sister Ariel said: “My sister Riah, she was a joyful person. She loved her family and she loved her friends. She was just a joy to be around. All I want is to just keep this conversations going because these voices need to be heard. Her voice needs to be heard. And countless other trans women who have been murdered, their voices need to be heard.”

Jayne Thompson, 33

Jayne Thompson, a 33-year-old white trans woman, was fatally shot in Mesa County, Colorado. Thompson was killed by a Colorado State Patrol trooper on 9 May, and news of her tragic death wasn’t known to LGBTQ+ media until recently due to several local outlets misgendering and dead-naming her in their original reports. According to The Denver Post, Thompson was shot after exhibiting “odd behaviour” near a grocery store called the Orchard Mesa Market, where she had been standing still in the same position for a “couple of hours”. When a pedestrian checked in on Thompson to make sure if everything was okay, she didn’t respond or “acknowledge their presence.” Jason Wade, a trooper, was later called to the scene after authorities had been contacted. When Wade arrived, Thompson reportedly started to “act aggressively” and “displayed a 10-inch knife” which led to Wade pulling out his gun and shooting her in the torso multiple times. She was later pronounced dead.

Selena Reyes-Hernandez, 37

Selena Reyes-Hernandez, a 37-year-old trans woman, was fatally shot in the early morning hours of May 31 by an 18-year-old student called Orlando Perez. Orlando and Selena went on a date and when they returned to Selena’s home, he found out that she was trans and left. Surveillance footage shows Orlando returning ten minutes later with a handgun and a face covering. During his court appearance, Orlando lowered his face mask, smiled several times and attempted to give a statement, although he was stopped by his assistant public defender. After the hearing, the judge ordered Orlando to be held without bail, and he is due back in court on 6 July.

Brayla Stone, 17

Brayla Stone, a 17-year-old Black trans woman, was murdered in Sherwood, Arkansas on 25 June. Her body was found in a car off of Gap Creek Drive, and LGBTQ+ media only discovered her death recently as she was deadnamed in initial media reports. Her family also sought to have her deadname used in reports. A change.org petition has been set up to demand justice for Brayla. At the time of writing, the petition has over 285,000 signatures. In a since deleted post on Instagram, a user known as tapneason claimed to have been paid $5,000 to murder Brayla. They later claimed that they were “clout chasing” and hadn’t killed anyone. A candlelit vigil was held earlier in the week and organised by the Center for Artistic Revolution. In a Facebook post, they said: “Brayla was someone who always held space for others to be themselves and express their identities. Despite the fact that these institutions didn’t support Brayla, it is important that we uplift her memory and dedicate ourselves to seeking justice for her. She was 17 years old and her life was taken far too soon. We must put a stop to the violence against Black trans women. We don’t want another Black trans woman’s death to go unnoticed.”

Merci Mack, 22

On 30 June in Dallas, Texas, 22-year-old Black trans woman Merci Mack was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Rosemont Apartments at 3015 East Ledbetter Drive. Her unconscious body was found at 6:15am, an hour and a quarter after residents reported hearing gunshots, and she was pronounced dead at the scene by the Dallas Fire-Rescue team. On her Facebook page, Mack said she loved baking cookies, relaxing in her jacuzzi and was looking forward to returning to her job in a restaurant as Texas eased its lockdown restrictions. In a statement, Tori Cooper from the HRC said: “Another Black transgender woman has had her life stolen from her. We cannot become numb to the fact that our community has learned of more killings of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the past few weeks than HRC has ever tracked in the past seven years. Her friends say that Merci Mack was a young, upbeat soul who deserved to experience a full life. HRC is mourning with Merci’s loved ones and are calling for a full, thorough investigation into her death.”

Shaki Peters, 32

Shaki Peters, a 32-year-old Black trans woman, was killed on 1 July in Amite City, Louisiana. The St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Office, who misgendered her in their report, are investigating her death as a homicide and have identified a person of interest. “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 Tori Cooper of the HRC. “This is the deadliest period we have on record. While we are still awaiting facts on the ground, it is clear that members of our beloved community are being killed because of who they are. Racism, toxic masculinity, misogyny and transphobia are destroying lives and taking away our loved ones. I am heartbroken. I am furious. When will our country stop killing us?” Natahalie Nia Faulk, a friend of Shaki who is also a Black trans woman, called her a “very independent person and very loyal to her friends,” and said she was “full of laughter and an abundance of life.”

Bree Black, 27

Bree Black, a 27-year-old Black trans woman, was fatally shot in her hometown of Pompano Beach on 3 July. She was pronounced dead at the scene around 10.30pm. On 5 July, Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward created an altar and hosted a gathering in honour of Bree’s memory, with protesters later marching to Pompano Beach City Hall while chanting, “No justice. No peace.” Tifanny Burks, an organiser with Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward, said: “We want some immediate answers to what’s going on and we want this investigation to be done with full integrity. We want to get connected to her family. We want to get connected with her friends because we don’t want this one altar, this one event to be the end.”

Related: How to be a trans ally: tips to help you be the best advocate you can be.

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