Two more violent deaths of transgender Americans have just been reported, both from December, bringing 2021's total to 53. It was already by far the nation's deadliest year on record for trans people.
Za'niyah Williams, a 21-year-old Black trans woman, died after a hit-and-run car crash in Houston December 20, TransGriot reports. She remained unidentified for some time and was misgendered by police and media outlets. But her loved ones have come forward to identify her.
"You were loved and will always be a part of me!" a cousin wrote on social media. "Fly high you beautiful butterfly." A friend posted that Williams was "a very sweet and smart young lady and always ripped the runway when she dressed up."
"Za'niyah Williams was a bright soul who at 21 years old had the world in front of her," Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign's director of community engagement for its Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a press release. "It is horrific that her life was taken from her by an unknown assailant who drove off without a care. She was also misgendered in initial reports until she was identified by her mother. We must create a society that respects Black trans women and all transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people. Although we honor them in death, they deserve to live, and they deserve justice for the crimes that too often end their lives."
The Harris County Sheriff's Office asks that anyone with information call (713) 221-6000 and reference case number #2112-07879.
In Albuquerque, N.M., white trans woman Nikki Turietta, 31, was found shot to death December 31, TV station KOB reports. She was found in her home, shot in the head. Turietta was also initially misgendered by media.
Jen Struck, Turietta's aunt, described her as "a character" and "just completely free spirit." Turietta had grown up in Albuquerque and had returned there a few years ago after traveling all over the U.S. and internationally, Struck told KOB. Turietta had just celebrated the holidays with her family.
"We're just all in shock," Struck said. "I don't think it's really set in for some of us yet." Violent crime has been rising in Albuquerque, with a record 114 homicides in 2021.
Turietta's death remains under investigation by Albuquerque police. "We want justice," Struck said. "We're desperate for answers. We want to know what happened. Somebody's got to know something. They didn't commit suicide."
"It is horrific that on the last day of 2021, yet another transgender person was killed in what has been a record year for fatal violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people," Cooper said. "This violence has been unceasing, but so too must our efforts to combat it never stop. We must commit to creating a safe and affirming culture for transgender and gender-nonconforming people."