Michelle “Michellyn” Ramos Vargas, a 33-year-old transgender woman, has been shot to death in Puerto Rico, making her at least the sixth trans person to die by violence in the U.S. territory this year and the 30th nationwide.
Ramos Vargas’s body was found Wednesday morning on the side of a road in the town of San Germán, The San Juan Daily Star reports. She had been shot several times in the head. Police are investigating whether her killing may have been a hate crime, but they are not ruling out any possibility.
Ramos Vargas, who lived in the city of Mayagüez, near San Germán, worked as a bartender and was studying nursing, the Associated Press reports.
Trans Puerto Ricans are being hunted, LGBTQ+ activist Pedro Julio Serrano said. “Enough of so much hate,” said a statement issued by Serrano, according to the AP. “Trans people are as human as everyone else and deserve to live in peace, equality, and freedom.”
Trans rights activist Joanna Cifredo de Fellman also spoke out. “Her name is Michelle Ramos Vargas and she was my age,” she told the Star. “Her passion, like mine, was helping other people; that’s why she decided to study nursing. Here is another sad example that gender perspective is urgently needed to educate our youth to recognize, respect, and celebrate the differences between us. … I wonder how long we will continue to ignore sexist violence because, although we do not know the murderer’s identity, we already know that it was a man. Now they will come with their transphobia to make excuses and justify her death. Who has the right to take someone’s life? Tell me!”
Other known trans homicide victims in Puerto Rico this year are Alexa Negrón Luciano, a homeless trans woman, shot to death in February in Toa Baja, hours after being reported to police for using a women’s restroom at a McDonald’s; trans man Yampi Méndez Arocho, fatally shot in Moca in March; Serena Angelique Velázquez and Layla Pelaez, visitors from New York City, shot to death in April in Humacao; and Penélope Díaz Ramírez, killed at the Bayamon correctional complex, also in April. Sean Díaz De León and Juan Carlos Pagán Bonilla have been charged with murdering Velázquez and Pelaez, but the other cases remain open.