In the past week, four transgender black women have been murdered in the United States — a trend that’s alarming civil rights and anti-violence advocates.
The New York City Anti-Violence Project, which tracks transgender crimes, says there have been seven murders of transgender people so far this year, well above the corresponding number last year.
The Anti-Violence Project documented the homicides of 23 transgender and gender nonconforming people in 2016, the highest ever recorded by the coalition.
“As we face an administration which devalues the safety and rights of transgender people and people of color, we must work tirelessly to support transgender friends, family, and community members,” NCAVP manager Emily Waters said in a statement.
Three of the most-recent homicides occurred in Louisiana, two in New Orleans.
Ciara McElveen, was found stabbed to death on Monday in New Orleans 7th Ward. That homicide came only two days after another black transgender woman, Chyna Gibson, was shot and killed in New Orleans on Feb. 25, the Anti-Violence Project reports.
In Monroe, Lousiana Jaquarrius Holland was found murdered on Feb. 19, the Anti-Violence Project reports.
In Chicago, Keke Collier, also known to friends as Tiara Richmond, was shot to death on Feb. 22 while walking near her home in Chicago.
Earlier homicides involving transgender victims occurred Jan. 4, with the death of Mesha Caldwell, in Canton, Mississippi; the Jan. 6 death of Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and the Feb. 8 death of Jojo Striker, in Toledo, Ohio, according to data provided to Hatewatch by the Anti-Violence Project.
McElveen’s murder brings transgender killings up to the numbers reported at the same time last year, with transgender women targeted at a slightly higher rate than in previous years.
Because Ciara McElveen and Chyna Doll Dupree were killed in Louisiana, a state with hate crime laws that do not offer protections for gender identity, it is unlikely the charge will be pursued without federal support for the investigation. Keke Collier’s murder is the only one of the six carried out in a state with hate crime laws that protect transgender people.
In previous years, those not covered by state hate crimes laws could have placed some hope in the federal government under the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Developed in the wake of the brutal 1998 murders of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man from Wyoming, and James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old African-African man, the act was used to prosecute an anti-transgender hate crime for the first time in 2016.
However, given the Trump administration’s most recent rescinding of President Barack Obama’s guidance on protections for transgender school children, along with the withdrawal from a court challenge related to this guidance by Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice, there is concern that these murders will go overlooked by the Trump administration.
Lisa Gilmore, of the Illinois Accountability Initiative, said the Chicago murder is “yet another violent attack leading to the death of a young transgender woman of color in our beloved community.”
“The humanity and personhood of transgender women need to be recognized,” Gilmore said. “As trans-women of color are among the most vulnerable in our communities and our nation, we all must be accountable for their safety and access to opportunities.”
In New Orleans, local transgender activist Syria Sinclaire expressed sadness about the trend. “We should have the right to live our lives open and free and not be taunted and traumatized by the general public if they don't approve,” Sinclaire said in a statement released by the Anti-Violence Project.
Shelby Chestnut, director of community organizing and public advocacy for the organization, said the record-pace number of transgender homicides comes at a time when “the Trump administration is rolling back protections for transgender youth. This is totally unacceptable.”
“We need to protect transgender lives at all stages, but especially in youth where they experience bullying, family rejection and violence that affects them throughout their lives,” Chestnut said.
Additional reporting provided by Rose Falvey.