On Friday, Florida native Chayviss "Chay" Reed was fatally shot in Miami, becoming the ninth transgender woman to be murdered in the U.S. this year. Trans women face disproportionately high rates of violence, and the number of reported trans murders each year isn't declining.
Reed, 28, was initially misgendered by the police, who are still investigating the motive and person behind her murder. Before Reed's death, eight other transgender women were reported murdered since the beginning of 2017, all of whom were women of color. In January, Mesha Caldwell was killed in Mississippi and Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow in South Dakota. In February, Jojo Striker was murdered Ohio, Tiara Richmond in Illinois, and Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Dupree, and Ciara McElveen in Louisiana. In March, Alphonza Watson was killed in Maryland.
Last year, 27 transgender people were reported murdered in the U.S., the majority of whom were women of color. That was an increase from 2015, when 21 transgender women were killed, making 2016 the deadliest year on record for trans people, according to GLAAD. At this rate, 2017 is likely to reach the same number, if not higher, than 2016.
A Human Rights Campaign and Trans People of Color Coalition study estimates trans women face 4.3 times more the risk of being murdered compared to cis women in the U.S., and at least 87% of trans people murdered from 2013 to 2015 were people of color.
According to the report, one of the main obstacles to ending anti-transgender violence is the justice system itself, saying trans folks "may avoid interaction with law enforcement because they fear being harassed, intimidated or charged with an offense — even if they are the victims of physical or sexual assault."
The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey revealed that 58% of trans people who interacted with police who knew or thought they were trans experienced some form of mistreatment, from verbal harassment to sexual assault. The fear of being charged with a crime themselves while seeking help from the police comes partially from the fact that 33% of black and 30% of multiracial trans women said in the same survey a cop assumed they were sex workers at some point.
"As members of and allies to the LGBT community, we must work every day to change hearts and minds and to challenge transphobia wherever we see it — even when it may appear to some a harmless joke," the Human Rights Campaign and Trans People of Color Coalition study says.
It adds, "There is no simple answer to stopping violence against transgender people and there are many barriers to overcome. But that cannot — and must not — be an excuse for inaction."