The year 2020 was the worst year in history for transgender murders and violence. And 2021 continues along that same path as bigotry and hatred rock the nation and the world.

COVID-19 has changed our world view, as well as how we conduct ourselves from day to day. The isolation that has been felt since lockdowns began in March 2020 certainly adds to the stresses that are experienced — all adding to the overwhelming sense of loss from transgender violent death atop what is a constant in the face of pandemic losses.

In 2020 the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) tracked a record number of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people. A total of 44 fatalities were tracked by the organization, marking 2020 as the most violent year on record since HRC began tracking these crimes in 2013.

HRC added, “Sadly, 2021 has already seen at least 41 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported. In previous years, the majority of these people were Black and Latinx transgender women.”

Details about those victims, in addition to those whom qnotes had not reported for the balance of 2020, are shared in the narrative that follows, supplied by HRC.

We mourn the loss of these individuals and honor their memory.

Lea Rayshon Daye was a 28-year-old Black transgender woman who died in Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio on Aug. 30. Daye was found unresponsive early in the morning on Aug. 30 and later died. An investigation into her death was ongoing. HRC did not become aware of her death until November.

Angel Unique, whom some reports identify as Angel Haynes, was a 25-year-old Black transgender woman who was killed in Memphis, Tenn. on Oct. 25. Unique, who was a licensed cosmetologist, was killed as the result of a gunshot wound.

Yunieski Carey Herrera, also known as Yuni Carey, was a 39-year-old Latina transgender woman who was killed in Miami, Fla. on Nov. 17 as the result of a stabbing. “The loss of any transgender or gender non-conforming person is a tragedy, and Yuni’s death is no exception. The fact that she was killed during Transgender Awareness Week only makes this loss hurt more,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper.

Asia Jynaé Foster was a 22-year-old Black transgender woman who was killed in Houston, Texas on Nov. 20 as the result of a shooting. Foster was also killed on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Tyianna Alexander, who was also known as Davarea Alexander, was a 28-year-old Black transgender woman. Alexander was shot to death in Chicago, Ill. on Jan. 6. On social media, friends 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, Bankz’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, Jackson was the Mother of the Haus of Redd, and the founder of The Ladi Redd, Inc. Friends remember 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, La. on Jan. 28. Friends of 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 transgender woman, was killed on Feb. 4 in Miami, Fla. 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 Braxton’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 Carrillo’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’s Cooper. 

Siblings Jeffrey “JJ” Bright, a 16-year-old transgender boy, and Jasmine Cannady, a 22-year-old non-binary person, both from Ambridge, Pa., were killed on Feb. 22. Bright was a student at Ambridge High School, while Cannady worked at FedEx, according to their Facebook page. Both siblings were active in PRISM, a non-profit 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 described Cannady as “a sweet, shy and artistic soul,” and according to the Transfamily of NWPA, Cannady “loved to dance. They cared deeply for their friends.” On Feb. 23, PRISM held a candlelight vigil in memory of the siblings.

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 Franks 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 transgender woman, was killed on March 17 in Los Angeles, Calif. A former colleague of Pardo’s from Starbucks shared that as co-workers, they had an “amazing time together.” According to The Advocate, the TransLatin@ Coalition and Pardo’s friends and family, a candlelight vigil was held 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 transgender woman, was killed on April 4 in Charlotte, N.C. Peterson’s family and friends have remembered 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, Mo. According to her Facebook account, Lucious was a fan of the TV show “Empire.” On social media, many of Lucious’ 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. Fennell’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, Banks was sitting alone in her Ford Fusion when the shooter approached the vehicle and shot Banks multiple times. Banks 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’s Cooper.

Natalia Smut, a 24-year-old Black and Puerto Rican transgender woman, was killed on April 23 in Milpitas, Calif. Smut 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 Smut, with more than 100 people attending.

Iris Santos, a 22-year-old Latinx transgender woman, was killed in Houston, Texas on April 23. Santos was sitting at a picnic table enjoying a meal when an unidentified suspect approached and shot her. Santos 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 HRC’s Cooper, “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. Thomas has been remembered as someone who had a “big heart,” who was “funn,” “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 HRC’s Cooper, “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, Mass. A well-known and beloved transgender advocate, advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and member of the ballroom community, DeAlto 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 have remembered 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. Vásquez 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, Md., 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 transgender 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 Taylor 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. 

Poe Delwyn 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. Black 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. 

E.J. 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 E.J. 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. Evans 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, Evans’ grandmother, in March. “You will always be in my heart.”

Taya Ashton, a 20-year-old Black transgender 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 Ashton. “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 transgender woman, was killed in Trenton, N.J., on July 30. According to Garden State Equality, Vanderpump was “a fierce LGBTQ advocate.” A GoFundMe remembered Vanderpump 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, Lewis moved to Cleveland last year for a fresh start. One friend remembered Lewis 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 transgender woman of color, was killed in Dallas, Texas on Aug. 7. 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!”

Pooh Johnson, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Shreveport, La. on Aug. 23. Johnson was an accomplished makeup artist under the name Titanizer.

Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, a 20-year-old Latina transgender woman, was fatally shot in Seattle, Wash. on Aug. 31. Initial reports did not recognize Martinez as transgender until her family confirmed her identity in October. In a statement to HRC, Martinez’s family shared that “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.”

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 HRC’s Cooper, “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 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 transgender 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 & 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 transgender woman, was fatally shot in Miami Gardens, Fla. on Oct. 2. Starz was a graduate of Florida Career College Vocational School. On social media, she was remembered as “the life of the party.”

Jo Acker, 26, was killed when a gunman opened fire at the Boise Towne Square Mall in Idaho on October 25. According to a police report, she confronted the shooter, now identified as Jacob Bergquist, 27, on the first floor of the mall near a department store. Her family members say her actions undoubtedly saved many lives that day.

The body of Jessi Hart, a 42-year-old trans woman, was found dead near Portland, Oregon on October 27. Investigators reported she had been dead for two weeks at the time her body was recovered. She is survived by a 13-year-old son, Caleb. The two had reportedly been living in a nearby motel.

Rikkey Outumuro, a 39-year-old Latina transgender woman was shot to death in Centralia, Washington, on October 30. Her boyfriend, Cristopher Allen Gaudreau, has been charged with murder and is being held without bail.

Jenny De Leon, 25, was found dead outside of a home in Tampa, Fla. on November 2. De Leon’s sister said she was “a wonderful person with a beautiful soul who touched the lives of those around her.” De Leon attended PFLAG Tampa meetings and sought their help when she began transitioning.

Marquiisha Lawrence, a 28-year-old Black transgender woman, was found by family members fatally shot in her home on Loop Street in Greenville, South Carolina, on November 4. Her death marks the 46th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on November 19, 2021.

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Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.

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