Forty-six area residents sat for more than 40 minutes on the cold steps of the New Bedford Free Public Library last weekend and honored 46 people that few if any of them knew.

They held placards with the names and likenesses of the 46 transgender individuals who have lost their lives to violence since Jan. 1 in this country. They did it because even though they may not have known these individuals personally, they know folks like them. And what an uphill battle it can be for trans and gender non-conforming people to simply live their lives out in public in truth.

Those doing the honoring at Trans Day of Remembrance included local members of the Southcoast LGBTQ+ Network. But the event also included more than 100 friends and supporters of that community. It included state Rep. Tony Cabral, City Councilor-elect Shane Burgo, former City Councilor Dana Rebeiro and others.

Brian Costa, a nurse practitioner at Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, looked to put the vigil in a perspective of what’s at stake, both locally and beyond.

He noted that he sought out training sessions at Fenway Health in Boston after he realized that there was no one in SouthCoast providing affirming care for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals. And he and others spoke of other challenges that trans citizens often face in obtaining employment and housing, and of prejudice that can lead to violence. 

“Looking at all of these faces on these steps, on these placards, these are the daughters, sons, brothers, uncles, aunts, members of our community,” he said. “What’s a shame is that we’re in the freest country in the world, yet these individuals didn’t get to live their lives freely. And so I hope this is a start to a change.” 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, anti-transgender stigma, denial of opportunity and other increased risk factors create a culture of violence that affects many trans individuals. Some of the 46 killings this year involved clear anti-transgender bias, according to HRC, but with others, the non-conforming status of trans people may have caused them to be unemployed, poor, homeless, and forced to survive on sex-work, thus increasing their vulnerability to violence.

“While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women — 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,” HRC wrote in a report that outlined each of the 46 deaths.

Among those who died this year was 42-year-old Jahaira DeAlto of Dorchester, who lost her life in a May stabbing attack, along with 27-year-old Fatima Yasin. The suspect in the killings was Yasin’s husband, and the couple were living with DeAlto at the time of the assault. Boston police at the time said the assailant suffered from mental illness.

DeAlto, a well-known transgender and anti-domestic violence activist, was prominent in the Boston ballroom dancing community. She was also a legendary maternal figure among many in the city’s trans community, raising children who no longer had a connection to their birth families.

“I am the mother who raised the children whose rainbow sparkled too brightly and blinded their birth moms,” DeAlto wrote in a Twitter thread on Mother’s Day last year. “I cherished what they discarded. I took on earthly assignments for the moms who’d earned their Heavenly reward. For their babies who still needed raising. I did that.”

New Bedford Light columnist Jack Spillane sat down with Alex West of the SouthCoast LGBTQ+ Network ahead of 2021’s Trans Day of Remembrance for 46 trans individuals killed across the country in the preceding year.

The speakers at the Day of Remembrance addressed a variety of issues that trans and individuals with non-conforming gender identities face, including equitable protection from law enforcement and courts.

“The justice system often does not show up for those most in need of it,” said Alex West, supervising attorney with SouthCoast Fair Housing, who moderated the event.

Other attorneys with SCFH and South Coastal Counties Legal Services outlined legal assistance available to those who have been subjected to bias in housing, employment and other matters. 

Kayla Faria, a staff attorney with SCFH, which works on eliminating housing discrimination, said that among the categories Massachusetts discrimination law protects are both actual and perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

Faria quoted Tracy Welch’s mantra at the South Coast LGBTQ+ Network: “We see you, we hear you, we’re there for you.” She urged people who are worried they may have been discriminated against to contact her organization. 

“One of the things I have found is that as we have gained more acceptance, the organizational resistance to our acceptance has also gained momentum. And there’s a battle to be fought.”

Also speaking Saturday was the Rev. Donnie Anderson, the interim minister of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in New Bedford, who spoke of her own journey as a religious leader who came out at age 69.

“As a transgender woman, as a transgender minister, I don’t have to tell you that the Christian Church has not, and often continues not, to be terribly friendly to our community,” she said.

She wanted to honor Pilgrim United for having the courage to call a transgender minister, she said, and she asked people to recommit to fighting for a world more friendly to transgender people. And she urged those present to fight that fight with an attitude of love, not the hate they themselves have experienced.

“One of the things I have found is that as we have gained more acceptance, the organizational resistance to our acceptance has also gained momentum,” she said. “And there’s a battle to be fought.”

Email Jack Spillane at jspillane@newbedfordlight.org.

Forty-six who lost their lives to violence

The following trans individuals in the United States were killed between Jan. 1 of this year and the Trans Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20. The list was compiled by the Human Rights Campaign and read at the New Bedford vigil on the steps of the Free Public Library on Saturday.

Tyianna Alexander, who was also known as Davarea Alexander, was a 28-year-old Black trans woman. Tyianna was shot to death in Chicago, Ill., on Jan. 6. On social media, friends of Tyianna posted that she had “good energy” and had “a beautiful light,” with one friend saying “I loved everything about her.” Said another friend, “this lady was nothing but life, encouragement, motivation and fun.”

Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a transgender man, was killed on Jan. 9 in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. Samuel was looking forward to starting a new year. On Jan. 1, he posted on his Facebook, “a new year to come, grateful for all the experiences who [taught] me how strong we really are, to life, to good and bad, and for all justice that is forth to come.” He also spoke out against violence in Puerto Rico, expressing his hope for a Puerto Rico without killings.

Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, a Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 17. On Jan. 29, Bianca’s friends and the Trans Housing Coalition (THC) held a vigil outside of her apartment to remember her. Said THC’s Founder and Co-Director Jesse Pratt López, “Muffin was just blossoming into herself.”

Dominique Jackson, a Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Jackson, Miss. on Jan. 25. According to her Facebook, Dominique was the Mother of the Haus of Redd, and the Founder of The Ladi Redd Inc. Friends are remembering her on social media, with one saying “my heart is heavy,” and another sharing “I’m at a loss for words.”

Fifty Bandz, a 21-year-old Black transgender woman,was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Jan. 28. Friends of Fifty Bandz and advocates said her name as they released balloons to remember her life. On Facebook, one friend shared, “When are we as a community going to do something?!”

Alexus Braxton, also known as Kimmy Icon Braxton, a 45-year-old Black trans woman, was killed on Feb. 4 in Miami. Braxton was a hairstylist and active on social media, posting regularly. One of her most recent posts said “they can’t stop my shine.” Family and friends held a balloon release to honor Alexus’s life on Feb. 8, and have been remembering her on social media, with one saying “I’m beyond devastated.” 

Chyna Carrillo, who also went by Chyna Cardenas, was killed in the morning hours of Feb. 18, in New Wilmington, Pa. Not much is known at the time about Chyna’s personal life. One of her social media posts suggested she would have celebrated her 25th birthday just weeks before her death. “Chyna was very young and did not deserve to have her life cut short,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper.

Siblings Jeffrey “JJ” Bright, a 16-year-old trans boy, and Jasmine Cannady, a 22-year-old non-binary person, both from Ambridge, Pa., were killed on Feb. 22. Jeffrey was a student at Ambridge High School, while Jasmine worked at FedEx, according to their Facebook page. Both siblings were active in PRISM, a nonprofit organization for the LGBTQ+ youth of Beaver County, Pa. “JJ is a part of our PRISM family,” PRISM shared on their Facebook. “JJ was a beautiful person with the biggest and brightest smile.” PRISM describes Jasmine as “a sweet, shy and artistic soul,” and according to the Transfamily of NWPA, Jasmine “loved to dance. They cared deeply for their friends.” On Feb. 23, PRISM held a candlelight vigil in memory of Jasmine and Jeffrey.

Jenna Franks, a 34-year-old white transgender woman, was killed in Jacksonville, N.C., in February. Jenna was a part of the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center family. She was remembered on Facebook by friends and family as “sweet” and “a rock star.” Dennis Biancuzzo, executive director for the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center, described Jenna as “a beautiful soul” and “a breath of fresh air.”

Diamond Kyree Sanders, a 23-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Cincinnati, Ohio, on March 3. Diamond was described by a family member on social media as “beloved.” An obituary shared by her family describes many loving memories. “She valued her family and enjoyed spending time with them. As a child, she would say “I love my WHOLE family!,” the obituary states. In her adult life, Diamond was a traveler, known to be in New York City one week and New Orleans the following week, also according to her obituary. 

Rayanna Pardo, a 26-year-old Latina trans woman, was killed on March 17 in Los Angeles. A former colleague of Rayanna’s from Starbucks shared that as co-workers, they had an “amazing time together.” According to The Advocate, the TransLatin@ Coalition and Rayanna’s friends and family held a candlelight vigil in her memory on March 20. “Rayanna was such a beautiful young person who just wanted to live her life and be herself,” said Trans Latin@ Coalition President Bamby Salcedo.

Jaida Peterson, a 29-year-old Black trans woman, was killed on April 4 in Charlotte, N.C. Jaida’s family and friends have been remembering her on social media, with her sister sharing, “you are going to be truly missed and once again we love you always.” Local advocates in Charlotte held a vigil on April 9 to remember her.

Dominique Lucious, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed on April 8 in Springfield, Missouri. According to her Facebook account, Dominique was a fan of the TV show “Empire.” On social media, many of Dominique’s friends expressed their love for her and how much she will be missed. One friend shared “Many don’t get to live in their authentic truth. You were fierce, glam, and hunny gorgeous! I love you now, tomorrow and forever.”

Remy Fennell, a Black transgender woman in her 20s, was shot to death on April 15 in Charlotte, N.C. Remy’s aunt said, “She was a vibrant young transgender woman who was just trying to make it and was doing it. She started her own business, graduated from cosmetology school … She has left her mark on the hair industry.”

Tiara Banks, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Chicago, Ill., on April 21. According to a news report, Tiara was sitting alone in her Ford Fusion when the shooter approached the vehicle and shot Tiara multiple times. Tiara was pronounced dead at the scene. “At just 24 years old, Tiara had her whole entire life ahead of her and, instead, we are remembering her because of the ongoing fatal violence against transgender people,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper.

Natalia Smut, a 24-year-old Black and Puerto Rican transgender woman, was killed on April 23 in Milpitas, Calif. Natalia was a celebrated drag artist in the San Jose LGBTQ community with local community members describing her as a “motivating and creative spirit” with “captivating performances” and a “love for advocacy within the community.” Friends and community members organized a vigil for Natalia, with more than 100 people attending.

Iris Santos, a 22-year-old Latinx transgender woman, was killed in Houston, Texas, on April 23. Iris was sitting at a picnic table enjoying a meal when an unidentified suspect approached and shot her. Iris was taken to a local hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. “Iris was so young with so many things to look forward to,” said Tori Cooper, human rights campaign director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “Iris was simply minding her own business, sitting and eating when her life was abruptly cut short.”

Tiffany Thomas, a 38-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on April 24 in Dallas, Texas. Tiffany is being remembered as someone who had a “big heart, who was “funny” and “stayed laughing,” and who was stylish.

Keri Washington, a 49-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on May 1 in Clearwater, Fla. “Our community is yet again in mourning as a result of senseless acts of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “Keri was at least the fourth transgender woman killed in less than 10 days, each of them Black or Brown. We urge everyone to end the stigma against transgender people, and to destroy the roots of transphobia and racism that fuel this violence.”

Jahaira DeAlto, a 42-year-old transgender woman, was killed on May 2 in Boston. A well-known and beloved transgender advocate, advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and member of the ballroom community, Jahaira was a member of the House of Balenciaga and was a founder of Berkshire Transgender Day of Remembrance and Berkshire Pride Festival. She shared on Twitter, “I am the mother who raised the children whose rainbow sparkled too brightly and blinded their birth moms … I know what gratitude in the eyes of a young person who finally feels seen looks like. And for me, that’s enough.”

Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, a 41-year-old Indigenous non-binary person, was shot in York, Pa., on May 3 and died early on May 4. They often shared photos of meaningful quotes on their Facebook. Friends and family are remembering them on Facebook, with one sharing “you are missed” and another remembering Whispering Wind as “a beautiful and kind soul.”

Sophie Vásquez, a 36-year-old Latina transgender woman, was shot and killed in Georgia on May 4. Sophie was a part of the EsTr (El / La) Community, or Community Estrella, a community that works to support transgender people in the Atlanta area. She is remembered as “the kindest person on the planet” and as someone who was “truly beautiful inside and out.” 

Danika “Danny” Henson, who also went by Pryynce Daniel and Niia Da Don on Facebook, a 31-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 4. Henson also may have identified as genderfluid. According to family, Henson had just begun transitioning. One family member shared that Henson “always had a BIG heart … there was love behind everything!” On May 6, friends, family and the Baltimore Safe Haven hosted a candlelight and balloon release vigil to remember Henson.

Serenity Hollis, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Albany, Ga., on May 8. Her mother said that “the person that’s responsible has no idea what they took from us … I absolutely want to see that justice is served.”

Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, a 17-year-old white trans boy, died on May 19, after being kidnapped and shot on May 12 in Gervais, Ore. He was a student at Gervais High School, where he was involved in the Gervais Future Farmers of America organization. The high school held a vigil to remember Oliver on May 20. Oliver is remembered as “an amazing child with a quirky sense of humor, who impacted so many people.”

Thomas Hardin, a 35-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on May 2 in York, S.C. According to local news, friends have shared that Hardin “identified as a woman,” continued to use the name Thomas and used both he and she pronouns. Friends remembered Hardin as someone who “always kept you laughing.” A funeral service was held on May 12. Sadly, not much is currently known about Hardin’s life.

Poe Black, who also went by Oliver Jackson and Legion, was a 21-year-old transgender man who was killed in Niland, Calif., in an area called Slab City, in early May. His body was found on May 11. Poe was originally from Nashville, Tenn., and often posted about disability rights and Black Lives Matter on social media. He was also an artist, with several online stores where he displayed and sold his art.

EJ Boykin, who also went by Novaa Watson, was killed in Lynchburg, Va., on June 14. He had just recently celebrated his 23rd birthday on June 10 and was studying at Morgan State University. It appears EJ was also the parent of a young child. One of Boykin’s friends told HRC that “He was loved and like[d] by everyone. He was one of those people that was just good vibes and energy.”

Aidelen Evans, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead in March in Port Arthur, Texas. Initially investigated as suspicious, as of July, her death is being investigated as a homicide. Aidelen was originally from Beaumont, Texas and had recently spent time in Port Arthur, Beaumont and Houston. “Nobody — no parent should have to go through this,” said Lois Balka, Aidelen’s grandmother, in March. “You will always be in my heart.” Sadly, not much is currently known about Aidelen’s life.

Taya Ashton, a 20-year-old Black trans woman, was killed in Suitland, Prince George’s County, Md., on July 17. According to social media, friends and family held a vigil and balloon release to remember Taya. “Taya was just at the beginning of her life — a life that she deserved to live to its fullest,” said Lindsey Clark, HRC associate director of the Transgender Justice Initiative. “Black transgender women continue to be killed in this country, and this violence is unacceptable.” 

Shai Vanderpump, a 23-year-old Black trans woman, was killed in Trenton, N.J., on July 30. According to Garden State Equality, Shai was “a fierce LGBTQ advocate.” A GoFundMe remembered Shai as being known for her “style [and] love of family,” as someone who had a “heart of gold” and who “loved to dress, smile and see everyone happy and smiling.”

Tierramarie Lewis, a 36-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 12. Due to misgendering and misnaming from local officials and a lack of media coverage, her death was not reported until recently. According to reporting from The Buckeye Flame, Tierramarie moved to Cleveland last year for a fresh start. One friend remembered Tierramarie as “a spirited girl … one day she would have purple hair, one day pink hair and always an outfit to go with those colors.” 

Miss CoCo, a 44-year-old trans woman of color, was killed in Dallas, Texas, on Aug. 7, 2021. According to Nu Trans Movement, she was “a well-known small girl with a big, bubbly personality. CoCo was a happy person [and] proud to be living her truth!” Sadly, not much beyond this is publicly known about Miss CoCo’s life at this time.

Pooh Johnson, a 25-year-old Black trans woman, was killed in Shreveport, La., on Aug. 23. Johnson was an accomplished makeup artist under the name Titanizer. Sadly, not much beyond this is publicly known about Johnson’s life at this time.

Disaya Monaee, a 32-year-old Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Chicago, Ill. on Sept. 6. “The epidemic of violence plaguing the transgender community, particularly Black transgender women, is appalling,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “It is often the result of a toxic combination of transphobia, racism and misogyny.”

Briana Hamilton was a 25-year-old Black transgender woman who was fatally shot in Chicago, Ill. On social media, Hamilton’s mother described her as Brianna as an “amazing person who touched so many people’s hearts with her presence and her memory will forever live on.”

Kiér Laprí Kartier, a 21-year-old Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Arlington, Texas, on Sept. 30. Kartier was from Dallas, Texas, and graduated from Skyline High School. Her friends remembered her on social media as a “very strong, independent person” who “always had my back through thick and thin.”

Mel Groves, a 25-year-old Black trans man, was fatally shot on Oct. 11, in Jackson, Miss. Groves was a plant soil scientist at Alcorn State University who loved agriculture and animals. Groves was also an active member of The Knights and Orchids Society, “a southern centered grassroots startup founded and led by black, queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people supporting gender justice and LGBTQ visibility.”

Royal Poetical Starz, a 26-year-old Black trans woman, was fatally shot in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Oct. 2, was a graduate of Florida Career College Vocational School. On social media, she was remembered as “the life of the party.”

Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, a 20-year-old Latina trans woman, was fatally shot in Maple Valley, Wash., on Aug. 31. Her body was later found in Seattle. Initial reports did not recognize Zoey as transgender until her family confirmed her identity this month. In a statement to HRC, Martinez’s family shared that Zoey “Zoey mastered makeup that accentuated her loving and caring personality … Zoey had a beautiful spirit, she always had a smile and had only kind words to say about others. Zoey was a born leader and her peers acknowledged her as such.”

Jo Acker, a white 26-year-old transgender woman, was killed in Boise, Idaho, on Oct. 26. Acker was one of the victims of a tragic shooting at Boise Towne Square mall while working security. She had previously served in the U.S. Army as a forward observer. Her family said she ran toward the suspect to stop him, likely saving many lives. Her family also told the media that she was “a hero” and “the type of person that always wanted to help people.” They added that she “will be greatly missed.”

Jessi Hart, a white 42-year-old transgender woman, was killed in Banks, Ore. Her body was found on Oct. 17. Prior to her death, Hart and her teenage son, Caleb, had been struggling with housing insecurity, staying in hotel rooms through subsidized and nonprofit assistance. Later, they both were staying in her black Saab. Unfortunately, not much is known about Hart’s personal life. 

Rikkey Outumuro, a.k.a. Tru Starlet, was a 39-year-old Latina transgender woman who was fatally shot in Centralia, Wash., on the night of Oct. 30, or the morning of Oct. 31. Outumuro was a popular and well-loved member of the Washington LGBTQ+ community. She performed under the drag name Tru Starlet and was a former Miss Gay Lewis County. Friends remembered her on social media, with one writing that she was “an incredible advocate for the queer and trans community for nearly 20 years.”

Marquiisha Lawrence, a 28-year-old Black trans woman, was “very humble,” as one friend remembers her, and had a “heart of gold.” Lawrence’s friend said that her favorite thing to do was to cook because she felt it “filled the belly and fed the heart.” Lawrence was fatally shot in S.C., on Nov. 4. 

Jenny De Leon was a 25-year-old Latina transgender woman who was found dead in Tampa, Fla., on Nov.2. De Leon attended PFLAG Tampa meetings and sought their help when she began transitioning. The organization wrote that “Jenny was an enigmatic, bright soul with enough energy to fill any room.”

Angel Naira, a 36-year-old Black transgender woman, was found fatally shot at her home in Aliquippa, Pa., on Nov. 11. Naira was a graduate of Aliquippa High School and Beaver Falls Beauty Academy and worked full time in home health care. Naira’s brother wrote that she was “a great person and loved everyone. She had a big heart and would do anything for her family and friends.”

The Human Rights  works to shed light on this epidemic of violence in order to ensure victims’ lives are remembered with dignity, and to work to end the stigma that so many trans and gender non-conforming people face. 

HRC confirms these cases working with local advocates, the media and sometimes law enforcement. In doing this work, there are some cases that surface that are unclear — where victims may have died by other means than violent acts by another individual. In these cases, HRC works to monitor developments closely and calls for further investigation into the causes and circumstances surrounding their deaths. To view these cases, visit HRC’s “Additional Concerning Deaths of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Individuals” resource page.

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