Chae’Meshia Simms, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Richmond, Va., last week, becoming the 39th trans American to die by violence this year, the deadliest on record for this population.
Simms’s body was found in a car that had crashed into a garage November 23, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. She had suffered a single gunshot wound and was the only person in the car. She was identified Thursday, and the Virginia medical examiner will determine the cause of her death, according to the paper.
Simms, who was in her 30s, sometimes went by the nickname “ChaeChae,” and she was remembered fondly in social media posts, the Human Rights Campaign notes. Friends and family called her “good,” “kind,” and “caring,” and they held a candlelight vigil for her Friday.
“We’re never going to stop looking” for the person responsible for Simms’s death, her father said at the vigil, according to Richmond TV station WTVR. He urged that person to “turn yourself in.” The loss of his daughter is “tremendously heartbreaking,” he added.
At the vigil, Richmond trans activist Zakia McKensey noted, “As a trans woman of color I know most well how we are disproportionately impacted and marginalized. When will I stop seeing news feeds or news threads or stories about trans women being brutally murdered?”
Tori Cooper, HRC’s director of community engagement for its Transgender Justice Initiative, released this statement: “We are mourning Chae’Meshia along with her friends and family. Although I did not know Chae’Meshia personally, she was from my hometown, and her death impacts the trans and gender-nonconforming community everywhere. We are continuing to see a devastating rate of violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people in the United States, especially against Black and brown trans women, and it must be stopped. It takes all of us to speak up and take action to end this violence.”
“Chae’Meshia should be here. She did not deserve to die. Period. Full stop,” David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, added in a press release. “I no longer want to talk about the resilience of a community — of Black trans women who exist in a world that continues to remind them that they are not safe and treats them like their physical existence is a threat that may invite unwarranted and unfair violence. What I want is for the violence that Black trans women experience to end, once and for all. There is no explanation for the continued violence that Black trans women and femme identified members of our community face, especially not during a global movement for Black lives. This is on us, this is on all of us.”
HRC has also been informed that another Black trans woman, Skylar Heath, died recently, and is investigating whether her death was a homicide. Heath, 20, died November 4 in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood, and friends say she was shot. If her death is confirmed as a homicide, it would mean at least 40 trans people have died by violence in the U.S. this year, most of them Black or Latinx women. The actual total is likely much greater, given that so many victims are misgendered by police and media or their deaths not reported at all.