No less than seven transgender women have been murdered in the US in just the first two months of this year, says the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The organisation called on lawmakers to address the “epidemic of anti-transgender violence” and for law enforcement officials and members of the media to improve their reporting and coverage of these deaths.
“The chilling reality of anti-transgender violence is an urgent crisis for our country,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Transgender women of colour face a toxic combination of transphobia and racism that together fuel an environment of often fatal violence.”
The most recently reported murder was that of 18-year-old Jaquarrius Holland, who was killed in Louisiana with a single gunshot wound to the head. She was shot on 19 February but only identified as transgender by the media on Tuesday.
It’s believed that the murder followed an argument with a suspect, identified as Malcom Derricktavios Harvey, who is being sought by the authorities. A fundraising campaign has been launched to help pay for Holland’s funeral.
Other transgender victims who were murdered in the last two months include: Jamie Lee (South Dakota); Mesha Caldwell (Mississippi); JoJo Striker (Ohio); Tiara Richmond; (Illinois); Chyna Doll Depree (Louisiana); and Ciara McElveen (Louisiana). Six of the women were black and one was Native American.
“The heartbreak of these murders is only amplified by the reality that their lives and identities are too-often disrespected in reporting by law enforcement and coverage by the media,” said Griffin. He noted that the media repeatedly misgendered the victims of these crimes, “undermining their identities and adding to the pain of their loved ones”.
Griffin added that as “allies and advocates are calling on the federal government to protect transgender youth, all of us must also loudly declare that Native American, Latinx, and Black trans lives matter and implore elected leaders, the media and our own communities to finally address this epidemic of violence. Lives literally depend upon it.”
The violence follows a reported a rise in general hate-based violent crimes and harassment according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In 2016, at least 22 transgender people were fatally shot, stabbed, or killed by other violent means. According to a November 2016 report by the HRC, in many instances the violence “is fuelled by a deadly combination of anti-LGBTQ animus, racism, easy access to guns and increasingly hateful social and political rhetoric”.
To add to the dangerous environment for transgender people, last week the Trump administration reversed an Obama-era policy protecting transgender children from discrimination in schools.