Since January, 16 trans individuals have been tragically murdered in the United States.
Christa Leigh Steel-Knudslein, Viccky Gutierrez, Celine Walker, Tonya Harvey, Phylicia Mitchell, Zakaria Fry, Amia Tyrae Berryman, Sasha Wall, Carla Patricia Flores-Pavón, Nino Fortson, Gigi Pierce, Antash’a English, Cathalina Christina James, Keisha Wells, Sasha Garden and Diamond Stephens have all lost their lives in 2018.
Of course, these are only the murders that have been officially documented, and have taken place in the US – it’s likely that there are many more undocumented murders of trans individuals elsewhere in the world.
While activists around the world fight for trans equality and acceptance, it’s also important to remember the members of the community who have tragically lost their lives, often at the hands of intolerance and bigotry.
Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42
Christa Leigh Steele-Kundslien, 42, was found stabbed and beaten to death in her Massachusetts home on 5 January. Her husband, Mark Steele-Knudslien, was found guilty. Christa was well known in her local community for her LGBTQ activism, and for being the founder of Miss Trans New England Pageant, which aimed to bring together trans women from around the region. Her longtime friend, Justin Adkins, said: “Her thing was always that transgender women are beautiful and need a venue for trans women to be seen as beautiful.”
Viccky Gutierrez, 33
On 10 January, Viccky Gutierrez, 33, was stabbed and set on fire in her Los Angeles home. Her friends described her as “a young trans Latina immigrant woman whose warm smile would give anyone comfort.” Bamby Salcedo – the founder of the Los Angeles-based TransLatin@ Coalition – said in a video: “It’s not that she is gone, it is the way that she was murdered. She was brutally murdered, and we believe that it was intentional, we believe that it was premeditated.”
Celine Walker, 36
36-year-old Celine Walker was shot to death in a hotel room on 4 February in Jacksonville, Florida. A close friend expressed her condolences on Facebook, and described Celine as living a “low key life where she did whatever needed to be done in order for her to survive.”
Tonya Harvey, 35
Tonya Harvey, 35, was shot and killed in Buffalo, New York on 6 February in what police described as a “hate crime”. Her friend, Ashley Breathe, said on Facebook: “She was murdered this week and misgendered by media, I knew her since I started transitioning, she was so sweet and loving.” Another friend wrote: “Not only was she beautiful she was strong … everything she put her mind to she did it with conviction.”
Phylicia Mitchell, 45
Phylicia Mitchell, 45, was shot on 23 February outside her Cleveland home. She was described as a “good person” by her longtime partner Shane Mitchell, “even though she had a drug problem”. He told the Cleveland press: “I miss her tremendously. That’s my soul mate. We went together everywhere. We did everything together. We always held hands on the bus. Years ago people didn’t respect that, but they do now.”
Zakaria Fry, 28
28-year-old Zakaria Fry and 70-year-old Eugene Carroll Ray were found dead in a trash container on 19 February. They reportedly died of blunt force trauma to the head and face. Albuquerque police arrested Charles Anthony Spiess, 27, in conjunction with their murder. Zakaria’s friend expressed his condolences and reminisced on when she helped him come out: “You told me fuck anyone who disagrees, and fuck all of those who can’t accept my happiness.”
Amia Tyrae Berryman, 28
Amia Tyrae Berryman, 28, was found dead with gunshot wounds on 26 March in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A close friend of Amia said she was “loved by so many people” and “was taken away in the very manner she feared.” Her friends also vowed to bring “justice” to her death. Amia’s murderer has not been caught.
Sasha Wall, 29
Sasha Wall, 29, was found slumped over her steering wheel on 1 April in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, with several bullet wounds. The FBI believe she knew her killer. Close friend Donovan Dunlap paid tribute to his “beautiful sister” on Facebook. “I cannot sleep, I hope they find who did this.”
Carla Patricia Flores-Pavón, 26
26-year-old Carla Patricia Flores-Pavón was found in her Texas apartment on 9 May. She had been choked to death. After their investigation, police said there was “no evidence at this time to suggest this homicide was the result of a hate crime.” Carla became the seventh trans woman of colour to be murdered this year.
Nino Fortson, 36
Nino Fortson was the first transgender man to be murdered in the US this year. He was fatally shot on 13 May in Atlanta. CBS46, the local news station, misgendered Fortson in their reports, which led to community members and allies using the hashtag #JusticeForNino.
Gigi Pierce, 28
28-year-old Gigi Pierce was shot to death in Portland during an argument with Miss Sophia Adler, who has since been charged with her murder. Her death is not believed to be “bias- or hate-based.”
Antash’a English, 38
Antash’a English died from a gunshot wound on 1 June in Jacksonville, Florida. Weeks before her death, Antash’a posted a selfie to social media in which she proudly declared: “I will no longer be a victim of discrimination. # Trans rights.” She was described by her good friend Taliyah Smith as “an unapologetic, bold and loyal person”.
Cathalina Christina James, 24
Cathalina Christina James was shot at the Quality Inn on Sunday, 24 June in Jacksonville, Florida. She became the third black transgender woman to be murdered in the city this year. Several friends mourned her death on Facebook. One post read: “Another trans girl shot and killed is the last thing I want to hear. No [matter] the life we may know they lived there is a level of respect that should be held to life. REST IN PEACE Cathalina Christina James put some respect on HER name.”
Keisha Wells, 58
58-year-old Keisha Wells was shot and killed in a parking lot in Cleveland, Ohio. Her aunt, Regina Spicer, said Keisha was known as “Pokey” to her family and friends. “Pokey liked laughing and telling funny stories about people. But when (she) loved you and cared about you, (she) loved you,” she told reporters.
Sasha Garden, 27
Sasha Garden was found deceased on 19 July in Orlando from “traumatic injuries”. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office urges anyone to come forward with information about her death for a $5000 reward. There are no suspects so far.
Diamond Stephens, 39
Diamond Stephens was driving home from work in Meridan, Mississippi, when she was killed (18 June). She was found with a gunshot wound in the back of her head, and it’s suspected that one or two other individuals were in the vehicle at the time of her death. There are no current suspects.