The number of transgender and gender-nonconforming people who’ve died by violence in the U.S. this year has increased to at least 36.
The figure reflects two deaths that occurred several months ago but have just come to the attention of national activists. Lea Rayshon Daye, a 28-year-old Black trans woman, was found unresponsive in the Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland August 30 and died shortly thereafter. She had been held in the jail since mid-May. While her death remains under investigation, the Human Rights Campaign has added her to its list of those who’ve died due to violence.
Daye was initially misgendered by jail officials. Her death was the second one at the jail in two months over the summer, Cleveland Scene reports, and activists consider the facility a dangerous place, especially for members of marginalized populations.
“Transgender people are being murdered across the United States, and the City of Cleveland has one of the highest rates based on our population,” Maya Simek of Equality Ohio said in a statement to the Scene and other local media. “The system that continues to fail Black, brown, and LGBTQ+ Ohioans is completely inept when interacting with those at the intersection of race and LGBTQ+ identity.”
“Lea’s death is unacceptable. Increased risk factors such as homelessness, combined with racism, sexism and transphobia, conspired to lead to a death that never should have happened,” Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a press release this week. “Our system failed Lea, as it has failed so many people, especially Black transgender women. We must demand change at every level throughout our institutions to ensure this never happens again. As we mourn Lea, we will keep fighting for transgender and gender-nonconforming people.”
Scott DeVore, also known as Scottlynn Kelly DeVore, of Augusta, Ga., was found dead near a Georgia highway March 30 after having been missing for two weeks. DeVore was a 51-year-old white gender-nonconforming person, and it’s unclear what name or pronouns they would have preferred, according to HRC. But DeVore “appeared to have been presenting as Scottlynn when leaving home for the last time,” HRC notes.
Ronald Harris Jr., 40, of Wrens, Ga., has been charged with murdering DeVore, The Augusta Chronicle reports. An arrest warrant says DeVore was choked to death near their apartment building, and their body then put in a car and dumped near Wrens, about 30 miles from Augusta. Ronald and Margaret Harris had initially been arrested on charges of burglarizing DeVore’s home. It’s not clear from media reports if the Harrises are married, siblings, or otherwise related.
“Every death of a transgender or gender-nonconforming person in the U.S. and around the world is a tragedy,” Cooper said regarding DeVore. “This violence that we have seen so often this year results from stigma and bias against transgender and gender-nonconforming people. It’s clear that we are not doing enough to stop this violence — we need everyone to speak out and take action. As we remember and mourn Scott/Scottlynn DeVore, we must work to dismantle the culture of violence and stigma that is so prevalent in our society.”