Violence Against Black Transgender Women in the US Continues to Grow

Transgender rights activists protest the recent killings of three transgender women, Muhlaysia Booker, Claire Legato, and Michelle Washington, during a rally at Washington Square Park in New York, U.S., May 24, 2019.

(REUTERS/Demetrius Freeman)There is an epidemic of murders targeting African American and Latina trans women. This year alone more than 20 women have been murdered.

The recent killing of Brianna BB Hill in Kansas City brings this number to 21. The frequency and level of violence involved in these murders and attempted murders is sickening. Trans women, allies, and advocacy groups are searching for solutions.

The murder of Brianna Hill, also known as Breonna Be’Be Hill on Facebook, is another tragic incident in what seems to be an ongoing cycle. Hill was a former member of a Vogue house, the House of Dior, who modeled and blogged about her daily life.

Little is known about the circumstances of the murder. Hill, 30, was found shot on October 14 at 43rd Street and Hardesty in the Vineyard Park neighborhood, a suburban wooded area in southeastern Kansas City. Police found her deceased when they arrived at the scene.

Authorities stated that they apprehended the suspected shooter at the site of the murder. He apparently remained there after the shooting. His name has not been released and the motive for the shooting also remains unclear.

A resident of the area, George Cherry, lamented the death of Hill. He said, “I’m actually part of the LGBTQ community, but I didn’t know that it was a transgender that was murdered but that actually hits more home to me.” He added, “That’s part of my family because we are out here, we are trying to survive and people take action against us, nationwide.”

Hill’s murder is part of the ongoing epidemic of murders and assaults against trans women. According to the Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group which provides statistics about and closely monitors violence against LGBTQ identified persons, 21 trans women, 20 of whom were Black, have been murdered in 2019 alone.

In addition to being the 21st trans person killed this year, Hill is the third trans woman killed in Kansas City alone. Brooklyn Lindsey, age 32, was found dead on the porch of an abandoned home at 6:30 a.m. on June 25th. The cause of death is not confirmed. Witnesses heard gunshots in the neighborhood earlier in the day after an argument ensued. Lindsey’s murder occurred in the same neighborhood where Jasmine Collins, a 32-year-old Black trans woman, was stabbed to death in 2015.

Ja’leyah-Jamar, also known as Jamagio Jamar Berryman, was killed in Kansas City on September 13th. Jamar primarily identified as a male, according to family and friends. Jamar was the victim of gun violence, which has been a leading cause of death for a majority of the murders of trans people this year.

Four trans women were murdered in September alone. Bee Love Slater, age 23, was brutally murdered in Clewiston, Florida. She was found burned beyond recognition in a vehicle after being tied up and shot.

Itali Marlowe, age 29, was shot multiple times in a driveway of a home in Houston. Raymond Donald Williams, 23, is charged with the murder and police are seeking his whereabouts. Williams was living with Marlowe at the time of her death and was seen fleeing the scene. Bailey Reeves, 17, a Black transgender woman was fatally shot in Baltimore, Maryland on Labor Day. Police officers found Reeves with multiple gunshots to the torso in the 4300 block of Parkwood Avenue. She was transported to a local hospital where she later died.

There are many challenges that trans women face that contribute to their vulnerability. According to the Human Rights Commission (HRC), “it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare, and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable.”

In addition to a confluence of challenges, the reporting of violence against trans people is complicated by misgendering in police reports and the news media. These occurrences delay awareness of these deadly incidents. Groups such as HRC continue to work toward justice and equality for transgender people.

About the Author

Stephen G. Hall is a sections editor for The North Star. He is a historian specializing in 19th and 20th century African American and American intellectual, social and cultural history and the African Diaspora. Hall is the author of A Faithful Account of the Race: African American Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century America and is working on a new book exploring the scholarly production of Black historians on the African Diaspora from 1885 to 1960.