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2021 Anti-Trans Murders Mount with Alarming Speed

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday October 25, 2021

Protesters gather in front of the White House in October for a #WontBeErased rally after reports that the Trump administration plans to exclude transgender and nonbinary people from its legal definition of gender.
Protesters gather in front of the White House in October for a #WontBeErased rally after reports that the Trump administration plans to exclude transgender and nonbinary people from its legal definition of gender.  (Source:Associated Press)

2020 was the deadliest year since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking murderous anti-trans violence in 2013, claiming 44 victims. Tragically, 2021 is on the verge of equalling — or surpassing — that grim total.

At least 41 victims have been reported this year, most of them trans women of color. The most recent is 25-year-old Mel Groves, 25, a Black transgender man who died of gunshot wounds in Jackson, Mississippi on Oct. 11. Groves was the 41st trans or gender-nonconforming victim of lethal violence this year.

NBC News detailed that "Groves drove himself to Merit Health Central, a hospital in Jackson, where he lived, and collapsed outside his car, Jackson police said. He had been shot multiple times. Hospital staff members transferred him to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he died later in the afternoon."

Groves' shooting death followed that of 26-year-old Royal Poetical Starz, a Black trans woman, who "was fatally shot in Miami Gardens, Florida on Oct. 2," HRC reported.

The HRC also documented the death of Kiér Laprí Kartier, "a 21-year-old Black transgender woman [who] was fatally shot in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 30".

Brianna Hamilton, who was murdered on Sept. 17 according to a Facebook post by the Brave Space Alliance, an LGBTQ+ Center located in Chicago's South Side.

"Brianna Hamilton rest in power my luv, she was found two days ago killed on the south side of Chicago," the Sept. 18 post read.

Hamilton was killed less than two weeks after the murder of D'isaya Monaee Smith, who was shot to death in the early hours of Sept. 3. Smith had been staying with friends at a motel in Dolton, Ill., for Labor Day Weekend; her friends went out for the evening, but Smith opted to stay in. When her friends returned, they found Smith dead of a gunshot wound.

Smith's shooting death followed that of 20-year-old Zoella 'Zoey' Rose Martinez, whom the HRC reported was "a Latina trans woman" Martinez "was fatally shot in Maple Valley, Washington... on Aug. 31, 2021. Her body was later found in Seattle. Initial reports did not recognize Zoey as transgender until her family confirmed her identity" months later, in October.

25-year-old trans woman of color Pooh Johnson died after being shot multiple times in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Aug. 23. Police found her body in a vehicle around 5:30 a.m.

Johnson's murder followed the Aug. 7 murder of another trans woman of color, CoCo Chanel Wortham, also known as Miss Coco, who was shot to death on Aug. 7 in Dallas, Texas.

Tierramarie Lewis, 36, was shot and in Cleveland on June 12. Due to misgendering and deadnaming, Lewis' status as a trans woman was not reported about a month and a half after her death. Adding to the confusion, reports said, was Lewis' deadname having been used on her death certificate, despite Lewis having legally changed her name.

Reports of Lewis' murder came after the killing of Shai Vanderpump, 23, who was shot and killed in Trenton, New Jersey on July 30. Police found Vanderpump in her apartment, shot in the face. She was pronounced dead at a hospital not long afterwards.

Vanderpump's killing followed the July 17 murder of 20-year-old Taya Ashton in Suitland, Maryland. Ashton was shot and killed in her apartment; a suspect was arrested.

Aidelen Evans died in Port Arthur, Texas. Though her body was discovered in a canal in March and her death deemed "suspicious," police did not verify that she was a homicide victim until months later.

Evans' death being classified as a murder followed the abduction and shooting of trans teen Oliver Taylor in May. Taylor was hospitalized, but died of his injuries on May 19.

Thomas Hardin was killed in his home; his body was discovered on May 2. Hardin identified as a woman, reports said, but kept the name Thomas and used both male and female pronouns. Two suspects were apprehended.

Poe Black, a 21-year-old member of the Wyandotte Nation whom reports described as a "warrior" battling for the rights of two-spirit people and other sexual minorities, was murdered on May 7 in Slab City, California. Reports said he was stabbed multiple times, and his body dumped into the Coachella Canal.

EJ Boykin, also known as Novaa Watson, a 23-year-old Black transgender man, was shot and killed in Lynchburg, Virginia on June 14. Police said they did not suspect his death to be a hate crime.

Boston transgender activist Jahaira DeAlto, 42, a member of the ballroom scene, was stabbed to death in her home on April 2, along with another woman.

DeAlto's killing followed the April 24 shooting death of Tiffany Thomas, who was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Reports said that news of Thomas' death was delayed due to denials by Thomas' family that she identified as trans and by initial misgendering and deadnaming in stories about the killing.

Iris Santos, 22, was shot to death in Houston a day earlier, on April 23, by an unidentified assailant as she sat a picnic table, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Also on April 23, drag performer Natalia Smut was stabbed to death in Milpitas, California. The suspect, her boyfriend, turned himself in. Two days earlier, Tiara Banks, 24, an African-American trans woman, died when a gunman opened fire, killing her as she sat in her car.

Remy Fennell, also an African-American trans woman in her 20s, was gunned down in Charlotte, NC on April 15. Dominique Luscious, 28, was shot to death in Springfield, Missouri, on April 8 — mere days after the April 4 murder of Jaida Peterson, 29, whose body was found in a hotel room in Charlotte, NC. Both were trans women of color.

Latina trans woman Rayanna Pardo, 26, died in Los Angeles on March 17 after being struck by a car under suspicious circumstances.

23-year-old Diamond Kyree Sanders was shot to death in Cincinnati, Ohio, March 3, exactly one week after Jenna Franks was found dead in a wooded area in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on Feb. 24.

Jeffrey "JJ" Bright, 16, and his non-binary sibling, Jasmine Cannady, 22, were both slain Feb. 22 in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

A few days earlier, Chyna Carillo was beaten to death by a 33-year-old ex-con, even as police officers ordered the man to stop. When he refused and continued to beat Carillo, police shot and killed the man.

Four trans women of color were murdered in a span of just under three weeks in various locales around the country, from mid-January to early February.

In a rash of four murders in less than three weeks, Bianca "Muffin" Banks died of gunshot wounds in Atlanta, Georgia January 17; Dominique Jackson was gunned down in Jackson, Miss., Jan. 25; Fifty Bandz, 21, was shot and killed in Baton Rouge Jan. 28; and Alexus Braxton was found dead in Miami Feb. 4.

Their deaths followed those of Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a trans man who was discovered with numerous bullet wounds in Puerto Rico Jan. 11, and Tyianna "Davarea" Alexander, a transgender woman of color, who was shot and killed in Chicago on Jan. 6.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.