Nearly every two days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. This sobering statistic does not include the numerous other deaths that never receive media attention or are not reported to police, making the full scope of lives lost to senseless antitrans prejudice truly innumerable.
As the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance approaches each November 20, the list of the dead who vigilgoers will memorialize steadily grows, filled especially with the names of trans women of color. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the first TDOR, held in Allston, Mass., to memorialize Rita Hester, a trans woman of color whose life was cut tragically short in 1999.
Over the years, the now-international project has catalogued the loss of hundreds of trans and gender-nonconforming people -- individuals who, within their often short lifetimes, were beloved family members, friends, and members of their communities -- who faced attackers wielding slurs, weapons, and fists. Some were killed by intimate partners, some by strangers, while still others were children slain by parents who were intolerant of their gender variance.
And while transgender people, along with friends, loved ones, family, and allies, somberly remember those killed because of antitrans violence today, we also remember that there are still countless instances of transphobic acts occurring each year that do not end in death -- many of which are never reported to media or authorities. Likewise, murders not covered by the media tend to become more difficult to communally memorialize on this day.
While The Advocate's memorial coverage to mark this year's TDOR focuses on women whose deaths were covered in the English-speaking press, we also honor countless other precious lives marred by violence and the multitude of others whose passing goes unspoken.
So, once again, we ask that you draw your attention to those whose deaths we mourn, not simply to cause sadness, but to raise awareness of the need for a world in which such constant mourning is never requisite again.
Alejandra Leos, 41, was fatally shot in the back while trying to leave her Memphis, Tenn., home September 5 after a fight with her boyfriend, Miguel Pegues. Police quickly charged Pegues with first-degree murder, and he is currently awaiting trial. Leos is fondly remembered by her mother, family, and neighbors, one of whom told reporters that Leos was the kind of woman who would say, "You don't have a jacket? I'll give [mine] to you."
Aniya Parker, 47, was shot October 3 in Los Angeles by a group of men during what police consider a "robbery gone wrong." Nearby surveillance video recorded the attackers attempting to take Parker's purse; however, the fact that the bag was left at the scene has left some trans advocates believing she was targeted because of her gender identity. Police have appealed to the community for assistance in their investigation, offering a $50,000 award for information that leads to an arrest.
Ashley (Michelle) Sherman, 25, was found October 27 with a gunshot wound to the head, lying underneath a light pole at Indianapolis's Tudor Park condominiums. Officials are still unsure whether she died where she was found or was moved there, but are not investigating her death as a hate crime at this time. Nearly 100 family members and friends gathered at the spot where her body was found for a vigil in the days following her murder. Sherman's mother and aunt made emotional statements to media there, pleading with Sherman's killer to come forward.
Betty Skinner, 52, was found December 4, 2013, at her Cleveland senior apartment complex, dead from severe head injuries. A physically disabled woman who required assisted living, she was unable to leave her bed during the attack. Police have not revealed any leads or suspects.
Gizzy Fowler, 24, was found November 12, shot dead outside her car in the driveway of a Nashville residence. Police are still investigating who killed Fowler and why she was at the house, which was unoccupied. Fowler was mourned at a local street vigil, where her tearful mother called for her child's murderer to come forward. Fowler is remembered fondly by her local trans community and members of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition.
Jennifer Laude, 26, was found October 11, strangled in a bathroom in Olongapo, Philippines. U.S. Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton was charged with the murder, which he is accused of committing during military training exercises. The circumstances surrounding Laude's death spurred human rights advocates to call for the U.S. to cede custody of Pemberton to Philippine authorities and for the immediate junking of the Visiting Forces Agreement, signed in early 2014, which expanded the U.S.'s military presence in the Philippines.
While the Visiting Forces Agreement remains intact, Pemberton was transferred to a Philippine military base nearly two weeks after Laude's death, where he currently remains in custody at Camp Aguinaldo. On October 23, Laude's distraught fiance, German national Marc Sueselbeck, was arrested for assaulting a guard after jumping the fence at Camp Aguinaldo with Laude's sister and was voluntarily deported a week later. Pemberton currently awaits trial.
Kandy Hall, 40, died from massive bodily trauma from an unknown object. The Annapolis, Md., hairdresser's body was found June 3 in an empty field near a northeast Baltimore school. Police met with a local LGBT Advisory Council to seek clues regarding Hall's mysterious death but have not yet been able to arrest a suspect.
Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis, 22, died December 5, 2013, after receiving a gunshot wound to the head while sitting in her parked car in Cleveland. Six months later, 19-year-old Delshawn D. Carroll was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison after confessing to the murder. While motive remains unclear, officials say that Stergis, who was an aspiring cosmetology student, knew her killer.
Mayang Prasetyo, 27, was murdered, police believe, by her newlywed husband, Marcus Peter Volke, October 5. Volke, who met Prasetyo while they were both cruise ship chefs, was allegedly upset that Prasetyo wanted to move out of the couple's home in Brisbane, Australia, fled the crime scene and committed suicide before he could be arrested. Prasetyo's body was reportedly dismembered and scattered about her apartment, with some pieces boiling on the stove.
After details of the gruesome crime made news, Australian tabloid The Courier Mail ran a lurid cover image of Prasetyo posing in a bikini, a headline that included the dehumanizing word "she-male," and an article that emphasized her history as a sex worker. The sensationalistic coverage ignited a media firestorm and an online petition demanding the Mail change its reporting policies that was signed by nearly 28,000. Three weeks after Prasetyo's death, the tabloid issued a formal apology in the Brisbane Daily.
Mia Henderson, 26, was discovered dead in a northwest Baltimore alley while police were investigating a separate, unrelated local crime July 16. While her murder reportedly bore similarities to that of local trans woman Kandy Hall, who was found dead in an empty Baltimore field June 3, police declined to directly connect the two murders -- both of which remain unsolved.
Henderson's death received a surge of media attention when it was revealed she was the older sister of Los Angeles Clippers player Reggie Bullock. Bullock expressed love and gratitude toward Henderson on Twitter, saying "[She] never cared what others thought ... always tried to keep people smiling and would do anything for me." Henderson was also mourned by a tight-knit group of trans women of color she considered her sisters, who remembered her in a Guardian profile as a "good girl, soft-spoken, harmless" who "carr[ied herself] with dignity, with a certain kind of grace."
Tiffany Edwards, 28, was shot to death in Walnut Hills, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, on June 26. Quamar Edwards -- who is not related to Tiffany -- turned himself in six days later, after police issued a warrant for his arrest. In attempting to justify his actions, Edwards reportedly voiced a "trans panic" defense through an uncle, who alleged that the assailant "lost his cool" after Tiffany "came on to him." While it remains unclear whether Quamar Edwards drew on this defense during his trial, an argument that excuses a murderer by claiming his internalized transphobia "drove" him to kill has been repeatedly discouraged by the American Bar Association and was banned in California in September.
Yaz'min Shancez, 31, was found deceased behind a garbage bin on a private road in Fort Myers, Fla., on June 19. Her remains had been burned post-mortem. Local police were reluctant to rule Shancez's murder a hate crime and have not publicly named a suspect. Shancez's father, Harvey Loggins, joined family members in leaving balloons and stuffed animals where his child's body was found. "Still to this day I love [her]," Loggins told local reporters, lamenting that he had never bought her the designer charm bracelet she always wanted. "I wish [she] were here right now."
Zoraida Reyes, 28, a graduate of Santa Ana College, immigrated from Michoacan, Mexico, to live with her family in Orange County, Calif. When Reyes's body was discovered on June 10 behind an Anaheim Dairy Queen, officials were initially at a loss about what caused her death. Four months later, police arrested local resident Randy Lee Parkerson on suspicion that he choked Reyes to death. Though officials are not investigating the murder as a hate crime, friends and family suspect Reyes was targeted because her trans identity was prominently known. Described by friends as "shy and quiet, but very warm," Reyes regularly participated in demonstrations for LGBT and immigrant rights, and was well-respected for her activism.
A murder victim allegedly killed by an intimate partner in Detroit's Palmer Park August 15 has not been identified, but LGBT advocates say she was a transgender woman. After the murder took place, the perpetrator reportedly drove away and crashed into another car nearby, then took off on foot, leaving his gun behind. Detroit police quickly arrested Eduardo Moss, who is also suspected of attacking two other trans women near Palmer Park the previous week.
A murder victim whose body was found locked inside her burning apartment in Tbilisi, in the Republic of Georgia, has been identified by Georgian LGBT activists as a 25-year-old trans woman. The fire appears to have been an attempt to destroy evidence related to the murder. Following the woman's death, Georgian LGBT rights group Identoba urged the nation's media to report sensitively and the government to consider the killing a hate crime. "The police are almost always trying to not class[ify] homophobic-motivated crimes as such and charges of classic premeditated murder, hooliganism, or some other charge is used to make it seem that the offender did not commit the offense in aggravated circumstances," the group said in a statement.
Cagla Joker was fatally shot in the chest on April 21 in her home in Istanbul while spending time with another trans woman, Nalan. Nalan was wounded in the assault but survived. Two suspects, ages 17 and 19, were quickly arrested for the murder after being caught fleeing the scene on a security camera. The suspects claimed they intended to have sexual relations with their victims, and shot Joker and Nalan after realizing the women were trans. The younger suspect, referred to by media as "H.T.," will be tried in juvenile court.
Gypsie Gul was killed in her east Istanbul home October 10. Her body was found two days later when a friend visited, concerned that Gul hadn't spoken to her recently. Officials have not determined whether Gul was targeted for being trans or was killed in a robbery attempt. However, according to her relatives, Gul was a sex worker -- as are many trans women in Istanbul who cannot find other employment -- and was likely killed by a client. While Gul's neighborhood was reportedly tolerant of trans people, most hate attacks still go unsolved.
Jacqui Cowdrey, 50, died in her Worthing, England, home on the evening of November 19, 2013. The exact cause of her death was never released, but officials believe she was arguing with 63-year-old Charles Schofield outside a local pub in the hours before her death. Police arrested him as well as a 34-year-old man on suspicion of murder; the pair quickly posted bail and left custody. Schofield was eventually convicted of assaulting Cowdrey, and the younger suspect is no longer being investigated.
Unable to work due to health issues, Cowdrey spent time on hobbies that included reading science fiction, watching Star Trek, shopping in thrift stores, and listening to Scottish music. Friends and family remember Cowdrey as, according to a family spokesperson, "a complex character who was determined to live life her way."
Keeta Bakhsh of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, died after being released from the hospital following a brutal beating by police October 23. Bakhsh was a dancer who was arrested among several coworkers when police raided their house. Police initially claimed that Bakhsh had perished from injuries sustained while jumping from a moving police van, but have since suspended the raid's leader, officer Aashiq Cheema, while they investigate excessive force allegations. Local trans advocates have stated they will stage protests if authorities take no punitive action against Cheema.
Mahadevi, 22, was a disabled trans woman pushed off a moving train in Bangalore, India, September 24. Witnesses told authorities that Mahadevi was pushed by two youths and perished immediately. Mahadevi was impoverished and speech-impaired; locals recognized her as a woman who sometimes asked passersby for money on the Bangalore-Hubli Intercity Express. Her attackers had allegedly joined in with other passengers fighting with Mahadevi for "troubling" them. Mahadevi's community was reportedly informed of her death by a boy who sold tea on the train; friends rushed to the scene, but railway police would not share any more details of the attack.
Marcela Duque, 46, was stoned to death on a street in Medellin, Colombia, by a group of attackers on September 9. The murder was witnessed by Duque's 19-year-old friend, who ran to get police officers, but could not return in time to intervene in the attack. The case is reportedly being investigated as a hate crime. Duque is remembered by her local LGBT community, where she was considered a leader.
Mary Jo Anonuevo, 55, was strangled and stabbed 33 times at the Lucena City, Philippines, bar she owned on October 21. Neighbors called police the morning after they heard screaming and noticed the bar was left open. Witnesses say that before the attack, Anonuevo had an altercation with the partner of a waitress she had just fired. Based on evidence, police believe there were four attackers who murdered Anonuevo during a robbery; Anonuevo's jewelry, electronics, and cash were reported missing from the scene. However, many of Anonuevo's friends suspect that the man she fought with hours before her death committed the murder, and many believe the assault to be a hate crime because of its brutality.
Rosa Ribut, 35, was found beaten to death November 24, 2013 at an Edmonton, Canada, hotel. Also known to friends as "Rose," "Dido," or "Jon," Ribut was a gender-nonconforming Indonesian citizen who had traveled the world and ended up in Canada in 2012 on a temporary work visa. She worked in a 7-Eleven but sometimes engaged in sex work, which may have played a part in her murder. Several weeks after Ribut's death, police arrested 20-year-old Marcel Cristian Niculae, who was the last person to speak to Ribut alive. The crime's motive remains unclear, but Niculae has been formally charged with second-degree murder.
Sevda Basar, 29, was shot in the chest with a hunting rifle by her boyfriend, Ethem Orhan, February 19. After the murder, Orhan stole Basar's gold jewelry, buried her body in the Antep, Turkey, vineyard where he worked, and fled to Serbia. Orhan had reportedly asked Basar to marry him, but investigators discovered he was already married.
Two days after the murder, Orhan returned to Turkey and confessed his crime to family and military police, and instructed officials where to find Basar's body. Basar's family was able to give her a burial but were reportedly unaccepting of her trans identity and her relationships, choosing to provide her male-centric funeral rites and publicly claim that she had died in a car accident. Basar was beloved by her trans friends, but they were reportedly not allowed to attend her funeral.
The official website for the Transgender Day of Remembrance listed 81 names for worldwide vigil-goers to memorialize this year. Transgender Europe has recorded 226 names. While this report from The Advocate has focused on most of the deaths reported in the English-speaking media, all of the lives lost -- as well as those never reported -- are worthy of honoring. Today we remember:
Elizalber Oliveria de Mesquita, Paloma, Rayka Tomaz, Prince Joe, Toni Gretchen, Luana, Cristal, Thifani, Joice, Sarita, Juju, Raisa, Tatty, Rafaela, Alex Medeiros, Paulete, Camila Veronezi, Lu, Kitana, Sarita do Sopao, Andressa Pinheiro, Rose Maria, Vitoria, Marciana, Nicole, Giovana Souza Silva, Mileide, Valquiria, Marcia Moraes, Paola, Andre Luiz Borges Rocha, Kellen Santorine, Mackelly Castro, Lele, Dennysi Brandao, Alisson Henrique da Silva, Karen Alanis, Cris, Bruna Lakiss, Gaivota dos Santos, Gelia Borghi, Sara, Aguinaldo Claudio Colombelli, Flavia, Maicon, Leticia, Raquel, Adriana, and many more.