Chyna Carrillo was just two weeks away from her twenty-fifth birthday in early March of this year. She was certified as a nursing aid, and she had moved from Arkansas to Pennsylvania to work at a nursing home that was hit hard by the pandemic. One of her friends described how her presence “would light up” his life, and that the move was supposed to be a fresh start for her. But she was murdered on February 18, 2021, outside her home in New Wilmington.
Chyna’s death is but one of the 375 registered murders of a transgender and/or gender-diverse person since the beginning of October 2020. That’s 375 unique and unrepeatable human beings from around the world whose lives were ended by acts of violence. The youngest of them was just thirteen years old, while the oldest was sixty-eight. The average age in this group is thirty years old. They were interior designers, stylists, beauticians, business owners, dancers, volunteers, activists, parents, and siblings. A quarter of the murders happened within the victims’ own homes. A third of the murders happened on the street, while victims were travelling to job interviews or from grocery stores. Some of them were killed by strangers, others by family members or partners.
According to a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, trans people are four times more likely than cis people to experience violent forms of victimization, including crimes such as rape and aggravated assault. People who hold multiple marginalized identities are at a disproportionate risk. For example, people of color comprise almost 90% of the trans people who were murdered in the United States in the past year. In the global grouping, 96% of those registered were trans women or trans-feminine people. And of those in the group whose occupation is known, 58% were sex workers.
Some of these individuals were hurt by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Viktoria Basakovskaya was killed by her ex-boyfriend—who was also the police officer who reported her missing in the first place and spearheaded the official search for her. Malevola Lessa and Mimii Lessa were killed in a police operation in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Krys Brandon Ruiz of Lompoc, California was shot dead by the police, as was Cielo de Lucca of La Plata, Argentina. And this problem is not just limited to this year’s murders. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ 2013 national report on hate violence, “transgender people were 3.7 times more likely to experience police violence compared to cisgender survivors and victims [of hate violence].” Further, “transgender people of color were 6 times more likely to experience physical violence from the police” when compared to survivors and victims who were both white and cis.
2021 is the deadliest year for trans people on the record of the Trans Murder Monitoring project by Transgender Europe (TGEU). That stat represents a 7% increase in homicides when compared to the prior year. This year’s Trans Day of Remembrance is an invitation to rehumanize those we have lost to violence over the past year. It is an opportunity to honor their memories, to learn about these victims and remember that each and every one of these 375 people was a unique human being with innate and inalienable dignity. It can be uncomfortable to sit and reflect on the ugliness of the violence they faced, but that discomfort can motivate us to create a safer and more just world.