Fatal violence against transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming Americans is continuing in 2022, after 2021 saw at least 57 members of this population die violently, the most in the time that activists and media have been keeping track. We say “at least” because there are likely many other such deaths, with victims deadnamed or misgendered, or their deaths not reported at all.
In any given year, the majority of victims are Black and Latinx women, but this epidemic of violence affects the entire community. On the following pages, we remember those we’ve lost.
Amarey Lej, 21, was found dead on a Pittsburgh street early in the morning of January 1. She had been shot. She was one of about a half-dozen trans people of color to have died violently in the area in the past year.
“Amarey was a bright woman and former student at Woodland Hills [School District]. We at SisTers PGH would like to send her fellow classmates our deepest condolences, but also our deepest gratitude, as you rose in protection of Amarey when she needed it most,” SisTers PGH said in a statement on Facebook.
Duval Princess, 24, of Jacksonville, Fla., was found shot to death in her car at a shopping center January 2. Princess’s family told local media that she had an “outgoing personality” and was “a little firefly.” She worked as a hairstylist and was in the early stages of transitioning.
Matthew Angelo Spampinato, a 21-year-old trans man, was killed in a hit-and-run car crash February 9 in New Castle, Del. He was walking home from work at a Starbucks, where he was well-regarded by coworkers.
“He was always so selfless,” colleague Samantha Strothmann told the Delaware News Journal. “He would always ask how everybody was doing even when he wasn’t having a good day himself.” Customers described him as “a breath of fresh air” and someone with “a smile that could turn a day around,” the paper reports.
He moved to Delaware from Georgia just last year. He had begun hormone treatment about a year before his death.
Naomi Skinner, 25, was fatally shot in Highland Park, Mich., February 12. Her boyfriend, Michael Cortez Norris, 26, has been charged with second-degree murder. Friends and family described Skinner as a “very outstanding person” who lived a “fabulous life.” Her death reflects the high level of intimate partner violence faced by trans people.
Cypress Ramos, 21, a popular drag performer, was found dead in a storage unit in Lubbock, Texas, February 12. She had died after being struck with a heavy object. Allen Montemayor, 32, has been charged with murder. He has claimed that he acted in self-defense and that he heard a song telling him to kill Ramos.
Paloma Vazquez, 29, was shot to death in Houston the first weekend in March. Vazquez had been in the U.S. just six months and had fled anti-trans violence in Honduras. "She had just moved into her new apartment and was very excited about decorating," friend Gia Pacheco said. She had already become active in the Houston trans community, working with the Organization for Latina Trans in Texas.
Tatiana “Tee Tee” Labelle, 33, was found dead March 18 in a trash can in Chicago. She had been beaten to death. She was last seen alive five days earlier. “It is heartbreaking for someone to beat her to death and throw her in the trash like she was garbage,” her sister Shameika Thomas told Chicago TV station WLS.
Kathryn “Katie” Newhouse, 19, was fatally shot by her father March 19 at their home in Cherokee County, Ga. Her father, Howard Newhouse, 57, then died by suicide. Katie Newhouse was described as a proud Filipina-American who was neurodivergent. She was an advocate for trans rights and an enthusiastic video gamer.
Kenyatta “Kesha” Webster, 24, was found dead in Jackson, Miss., March 26. Family members have said Webster’s death was robbery-homicide, but police have yet to confirm. On April 1, more than 100 people attended a balloon release honoring her. At the event, her mother, Sharon Taylor, called for justice. “Everybody share it all on Facebook,” Taylor said. “All over Facebook. Let it go out, because I want justice for my baby. Because she was loved. She had plenty of love. She didn’t deserve that. She ain’t no dog, no rag or dirt. She’s gonna get justice.”
Miia Love Parker, 25, was shot to death April 1 in Chester, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb, and police have identified a suspect but have yet to apprehend him. Parker was in a parked vehicle when she was shot. A friend took her to a hospital, but she did not survive. Chester police are searching for Saad Najeed Dwight, 38. He will face charges of criminal homicide, third-degree murder, and possession of a firearm not to be carried without a license.
“Friends remember Miia Love Parker as a brilliant light that brought joy into every room she entered,” Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign’s director of community engagement for its Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a press release. “That light was extinguished far too soon.”
Fern Feather, 29, of Hinesburg, Vt., was found stabbed to death April 12 along a road in another Vermont community, Morristown, and the man charged has made statements amounting to a “trans panic” defense. Seth Brunell, 43, told police Feather had made a sexual advance toward him and “attacked” him, so he had to defend himself. But police said they saw no signs of a struggle and that Brunell was not injured. He is charged with second-degree murder.
Feather’s friends described her in glowing terms. “Fern was one of the most brilliant, colorful, loving, special, super special people that you would ever meet,” Nina Shoenthal told Vermont Public Radio. “The kind of person that everyone loved. Everyone wanted to be close with.”
Black transgender girl Ariyanna Mitchell, 17, was shot to death while intervening in a fight at a party in Hampton, Va., April 2. Her accused killer, Jimmy Leshawn Williams, asked her if she was a boy or a girl before shooting her, according to court documents. He has been charged with murder.
Mitchell was a high school student who loved dancing and styling hair. She was in her junior year at the East End Academy and was a dancer at the Triple E (Electra Eagles Elite) Dance Academy. “She was truly unique, funny, and loved by everyone,” an online obit says. “There was never a dull moment when Ariyanna was around.”
Transgender man Ray Muscat, 26, was shot to death May 8 at his home in Oakland County, Mich. Police say he was killed by his girlfriend, trans woman Ruby Taverner, 22, who subsequently died by suicide. Her body was discovered the next day. Authorities say she also fatally shot her brother, Bishop Taverner, 24.
Muscat's interests included anime and cosplay, and fhe requently attended conventions “to have fun and show off their unmatched talent and creativity,” notes an obituary, which deadnamed him. He had worked at Meijer, a big-box retailer, for several years, and customers and colleagues there knew him “as a kind soul who had a glowing smile,” according to the obit. A Michigan native, he had been attending Oakland Community College, studying early childhood education. He and Ruby Taverner had been in a relationship for two years.
Nedra Sequence Morris, 50, was found dead May 14 on a street in Opa-Locka, Fla. She was lying in a pool of blood. Family members say she was shot in the head at another location and her body dumped at the site. Police are continuing to investigate.
Morris’s friends and family, who called her Sequence, held a vigil at the site where she was found, with about 100 people attending. “We pray that God speaks to us, we don’t go out with a vengeance, that we know justice will be served,” a cousin told attendees, according to local TV station WTVJ.