Marilyn Cazares was a homeless 22-year-old transgender Latina whose body was found on Monday in Brawley, Calif.
Black Lives Matter protester Summer Taylor, a white non-binary 24-year-old, was killed on a closed Seattle freeway on July 4 while at a demonstration.
Bree Black, 27, a black transgender woman, was fatally shot in her Pompano Beach, Fla., home on July 3.
It’s only July, but it’s already looking like a record number of killings of transgender and gender nonconforming Americans this year, activists warn.
There have been at least 22 violent deaths being investigated as homicides of transgender or gender nonconforming people in 2020 to date, according to Elliott Kozuch, press secretary for LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, which has been tracking the killings of transgender and gender nonconforming people since 2013. In 2019, the group recorded 27 such deaths for the entire year. By the time the number of such deaths reached 22 last year, it was November.
The numbers for black transgender women in particular, remain alarming. Since 2013, 67 percent of all the recorded killings have been black transgender women, according to HRC numbers.
Activists and academics who research violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people note that the uptick in numbers could be attributed to more accurate reporting and categorizations as well as a documented increase in violence. Still, the numbers are notable.
Despite some expansion in civil rights — in June the Supreme Court ruled that federal sex discrimination protections ensured that employees cannot be fired for their gender identity or sexual orientation — activists say institutional transphobia still runs rampant, particularly within the Trump administration and in some state legislatures.
“There are systemic barriers in place that enable this epidemic of violence against trans people, particularly, black trans women. It’s discrimination in employment, discrimination in housing, discrimination in credit. If you cannot create a livelihood, if you can’t get hired, if you can’t find suitable housing, you’re at greater risk of violence,” Charlotte Clymer, an LGBTQ+ activist, said.
“What further exacerbates it, of course, is the current transphobia of our culture,” she added.
The lockdown and shutdown measures in place because of the coronavirus could also be leading to an uptick in violence, Kozuch said. “There’s a likely higher increase in domestic and intimate partner violence.”
Most fatal violence observed in HRC’s data set was perpetrated by someone known by the victim: a partner, a colleague or if they were a sex worker, a familiar customer, Kozuch said. Because of discrimination in workplaces, many transgender people turn to sex work.
If society were more accepting of trans people, starting at home, that could lead to less homelessness and less living on the margins, making them less susceptible to violence throughout their lives, Kozuch said.
Beverly Tillery, executive director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project, agreed. She cautioned that there’s more to violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people than fatal killings.
“It’s one thing to talk about the homicides, but we need to interrupt the other violence,” Tillery said. “It’s the harassment on the street, the laughing on the subway, the bullying, being harassed by the landlord. The daily violence makes it possible for the homicides to happen.”