At least 31 transgender or gender non-conforming Americans have been violently killed in 2020, the most ever reported in a single calendar year, according to HRC.
The LGBTQ advocacy group confirmed the horrific tide of unprecedented anti-transgender violence in a recent news release mourning the loss of Felycya Harris, a Black trans woman who was fatally shot this week at a park in Augusta, Georgia. Harris was an interior decorator who owned and operated a small business. Friends cherished her warm smiles and eye for lush interiors. She was just 33 years old.
"We don’t know what happened—only God knows," Angela Bales, one of Harris' friends and supporters, told the Augusta Chronicle. "We’ve got to have some sort of justice for her."
Sadly, Harris was misgendered and dead-named by local media in initial reports of her death. As the Trans Journalists Association notes, police often dead-name or misgender victims of anti-transgender violence when speaking to reporters.
Harris' death comes just days after a string of brutal transgender homicides in America and U.S. territories. Michelle Ramos Vargas, a 33-year-old trans woman, was found dead last week in San German, Puerto Rico, in a suspected hate crime, according to the Associated Press. Including Harris and Vargas, four known trans or gender non-conforming Americans were violently killed in the past four weeks alone.
Tragically, America's ongoing epidemic of anti-trans violence is no secret. Year after year, trans people continue to lose their lives in violent incidents at alarming rates. Transgender people of color—particularly Black trans women like Harris—are disproportionately impacted, a fact that many Black trans advocates have highlighted amid the recent resurgence of Black Lives Matter activism nationwide.
Protestors honor Black trans lives at a Brooklyn Liberation march in June.
The majority of trans homicides have historically involved guns, too. According to an Everytown report from 2019, 75% of trans homicides since 2017 were gun deaths.
"This epidemic of violence, which is particularly impacting transgender women of color, must and can be stopped," HRC president Alphonso David said in a media statement addressing 2020's grim milestone. "We must work to address the factors that underpin this culture of violence and openly discuss how the intersection of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia work to deprive transgender and gender non-conforming people of equal access to opportunity and necessities like employment, housing and health care."
"We mourn the individuals we have lost this year while remembering them for who they were: our partners, family members, friends and community members," David continued. "Not one of the 31 lives we have lost this year, or the 196 we have lost since 2013, deserved to have their lives or their futures taken from them."
Trans lives lost to hate-motivated violence are honored annually on the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20. The commemorative event, which began as a vigil in honor of trans homicide victim Rita Hester in 1999, is credited with bringing wider attention to the high rates of violence plaguing America's trans community.
Learn more about TDOR and anti-transgender violence here.