The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) mourns the death of Disaya Monaee Smith, a Black transgender woman from Chicago, Illinois, who died on September 6, 2021.
“We mourn the loss of Disaya Monaee Smith,” said NBJC Deputy Executive Director Victoria Kirby York, who added that 2021 is on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender and non-binary people.
Disaya Monaee Smith is one of 36 transgender or non-binary people to be killed in 2021, which is expected to surpass 2020 as the year with the most trans people killed.
This year has also seen more than 120 anti-trans bills introduced across the country in state legislatures that may be fueling an influence in the increase of the number of homicides, domestic murders, and hate crimes targeting transgender women.
The NBJC Stolen Lives list of trans and non-binary individuals lost to violence and hate can be found here.
Besides Disaya Monaee Smith, 2021 has been witness to at least 35 other transgender or gender non-conforming people who were fatally shot or killed by other violent means.
Advocates believe many of these stories go unreported — or misreported — and in previous years, the majority of victims were Black and Latinx transgender women.
In 2020, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) tracked a record number of violent fatal incidents against transgender and gender non-conforming people.
A total of 44 fatalities marked 2020 as the most violent year on record since HRC began tracking these crimes in 2013.
“These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members. They worked, went to school and attended houses of worship,” said the Human Rights Campaign website. “They were real people — people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them.”
Among the transgender and gender non-conforming people who have been murdered in 2021 are:
- Tyianna Alexander, who was also known as Davarea Alexander, was a 28-year-old Black trans woman. Tyianna was shot to death in Chicago on January 6. On social media, friends of Tyianna posted that she had “good energy” and had “a beautiful light,” with one friend saying “I loved everything about her.” Said another friend, “this lady was nothing but life, encouragement, motivation and fun.”
- Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a transgender man, was killed on January 9 in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. Samuel was looking forward to starting a new year. On January 1, he posted on his Facebook, “a new year to come, grateful for all the experiences who [taught] me how strong we really are, to life, to good and bad, and for all justice that is forth to come.” He also spoke out against violence in Puerto Rico, expressing his hope for a Puerto Rico without killings.
- Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, a Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Atlanta, Ga. on January 17. On Friday, January 29, Bianca’s friends and the Trans Housing Coalition (THC) held a vigil outside of her apartment to remember her. Said THC’s Founder and Co-Director Jesse Pratt López, “Muffin was just blossoming into herself.”
- Dominique Jackson, a Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Jackson, Miss. on January 25. According to her Facebook, Dominique was the Mother of the Haus of Redd, and the Founder of The Ladi Redd Inc. Friends are remembering her on social media, with one saying “my heart is heavy,” and another sharing “I’m at a loss for words.”
- Fifty Bandz, a 21-year-old Black transgender woman,was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on January 28. Friends of Fifty Bandz and advocates said her name as they released balloons to remember her life. On Facebook, one friend shared, “When are we as a community going to do something?!”
- Alexus Braxton, also known as Kimmy Icon Braxton, a 45-year-old Black trans woman, was killed on Feb. 4 in Miami. Braxton was a hairstylist and active on social media, posting regularly. One of her most recent posts said “they can’t stop my shine.” Family and friends held a balloon release to honor Alexus’s life on February 8 and have been remembering her on social media, with one saying “I’m beyond devastated.”
- Chyna Carrillo, who also went by Chyna Cardenas, was killed in the morning hours of February 18, 2021, in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. Not much is known at the time about Chyna’s personal life. One of her social media posts suggested she would have celebrated her 25th birthday just weeks before her death. “Chyna was very young and did not deserve to have her life cut short,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper.
- Siblings Jeffrey “JJ” Bright, a 16-year-old trans boy, and Jasmine Cannady, a 22-year-old non-binary person, both from Ambridge, Pennsylvania, were killed on February 22. Jeffrey was a student at Ambridge High School, while Jasmine worked at FedEx, according to their Facebook page. Both siblings were active in PRISM, a non-profit organization for the LGBTQ+ youth of Beaver County, Pa. “JJ is a part of our PRISM family,” PRISM shared on their Facebook. “JJ was a beautiful person with the biggest and brightest smile.” PRISM describes Jasmine as “a sweet, shy and artistic soul,” and according to the Transfamily of NWPA, Jasmine “loved to dance. They cared deeply for their friends.” On February 23, PRISM held a candlelight vigil in memory of Jasmine and Jeffrey.
- Jenna Franks, a 34-year-old white transgender woman, was killed in Jacksonville, North Carolina in February. Jenna was a part of the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center family. She was remembered on Facebook by friends and family as “sweet” and “a rock star.” Dennis Biancuzzo, Executive Director for the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center, described Jenna as “a beautiful soul” and “a breath of fresh air.”
- Diamond Kyree Sanders, a 23-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Cincinnati, Ohio on March 3. Diamond was described by a family member on social media as “beloved.” An obituary shared by her family describes many loving memories. “She valued her family and enjoyed spending time with them. As a child, she would say “I love my WHOLE family!,” the obituary states. In her adult life, Diamond was a traveler, known to be in New York City one week and New Orleans the following week, also according to her obituary.
- Rayanna Pardo, a 26-year-old Latina trans woman, was killed on March 17 in Los Angeles. A former colleague of Rayanna’s from Starbucks shared that as co-workers, they had an “amazing time together.” According to The Advocate, the TransLatin@ Coalition and Rayanna’s friends and family held a candlelight vigil in her memory on March 20. “Rayanna was such a beautiful young person who just wanted to live her life and be herself,” said Trans Latin@ Coalition President Bamby Salcedo.
- Jaida Peterson, a 29-year-old Black trans woman, was killed on April 4 in Charlotte, N.C. Jaida’s family and friends have been remembering her on social media, with her sister sharing, “you are going to be truly missed and once again we love you always.” Local advocates in Charlotte held a vigil on April 9 to remember her.
- Dominique Lucious, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed on April 8 in Springfield, Missouri. According to her Facebook account, Dominique was a fan of the TV show “Empire.” On social media, many of Dominique’s friends expressed their love for her and how much she will be missed. One friend shared “Many don’t get to live in their authentic truth. You were fierce, glam, and hunny gorgeous! I love you now, tomorrow and forever.”
- Remy Fennell, a Black transgender woman in her 20s, was shot to death on April 15 in Charlotte, N.C. Remy’s aunt said, “She was a vibrant young transgender woman who was just trying to make it & was doing it. She started her own business, graduated from cosmetology school…She has left her mark on the hair industry.”
- Tiara Banks, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Chicago, Illinois on April 21, 2021. According to a news report, Tiara was sitting alone in her Ford Fusion when the shooter approached the vehicle and shot Tiara multiple times. Tiara was pronounced dead at the scene. “At just 24 years old, Tiara had her whole entire life ahead of her and, instead, we are remembering her because of the ongoing fatal violence against transgender people,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper.
- Natalia Smut, a 24-year-old Black and Puerto Rican transgender woman, was killed on April 23 in Milpitas, California. Natalia was a celebrated drag artist in the San Jose LGBTQ community with local community members describing her as a “motivating and creative spirit” with “captivating performances” and a “love for advocacy within the community.” Friends and community members organized a vigil for Natalia, with more than 100 people attending.
- Iris Santos, a 22-year-old Latinx transgender woman, was killed in Houston, Texas on April 23, 2021. Iris was sitting at a picnic table enjoying a meal when an unidentified suspect approached and shot her. Iris was taken to a local hospital, where she was later pronounced dead. “Iris was so young with so many things to look forward to,” said Tori Cooper, Human Rights campaign director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “Iris was simply minding her own business, sitting and eating when her life was abruptly cut short.”
- Tiffany Thomas, a 38-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on April 24 in Dallas, Texas. Tiffany is being remembered as someone who had a “big heart, who was “funny” and “stayed laughing,” and who was stylish.
- Keri Washington, a 49-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on May 1 in Clearwater, Florida. “Our community is yet again in mourning as a result of senseless acts of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “Keri was at least the fourth transgender woman killed in less than 10 days, each of them Black or Brown. We urge everyone to end the stigma against transgender people, and to destroy the roots of transphobia and racism that fuel this violence.”
- Jahaira DeAlto, a 42-year-old transgender woman, was killed on May 2 in Boston, Mass. A well-known and beloved transgender advocate, advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and member of the ballroom community, Jahaira was a member of the House of Balenciaga and was a founder of Berkshire Transgender Day of Remembrance and Berkshire Pride Festival. She shared on Twitter, “I am the mother who raised the children whose rainbow sparkled too brightly and blinded their birth moms… I know what gratitude in the eyes of a young person who finally feels seen looks like. And for me, that’s enough.”
- Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, a 41-year-old Indigenous non-binary person, was shot in York, Pennsylvania on May 3 and died early on May 4. They often shared photos of meaningful quotes on their Facebook. Friends and family are remembering them on Facebook, with one sharing “you are missed” and another remembering Whispering Wind as “a beautiful and kind soul.”
- Sophie Vásquez, a 36-year-old Latina transgender woman, was shot and killed in Georgia on May 4. Sophie was a part of the EsTr (El / La) Community, or Community Estrella, a community that works to support transgender people in the Atlanta area. She is remembered as “the kindest person on the planet” and as someone who was “truly beautiful inside and out.”
- Danika “Danny” Henson, who also went by Pryynce Daniel and Niia Da Don on Facebook, a 31-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 4. Henson also may have identified as genderfluid. According to family, Henson had just begun transitioning. One family member shared that Henson “always had a BIG heart… there was love behind everything!” On May 6, friends, family and the Baltimore Safe Haven hosted a candlelight and balloon release vigil to remember Henson.
- Serenity Hollis, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Albany, Georgia, on May 8. Her mother said that “the person that’s responsible has no idea what they took from us…I absolutely want to see that justice is served.”
- Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, a 17-year-old white trans boy, died on May 19 after being kidnapped and shot on May 12 in Gervais, Oregon. He was a student at Gervais High School, where he was involved in the Gervais Future Farmers of America organization. The high school held a vigil to remember Oliver on May 20. Oliver is remembered as “an amazing child with a quirky sense of humor, who impacted so many people.”
- Thomas Hardin, a 35-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on May 2 in York, South Carolina. According to local news, friends have shared that Hardin “identified as a woman,” continued to use the name Thomas and used both he and she pronouns. Friends remembered Hardin as someone who “always kept you laughing.” A funeral service was held on May 12. Sadly, not much is currently known about Hardin’s life.
- Poe Black, who also went by Oliver Jackson and Legion, was a 21-year-old transgender man who was killed in Niland, California in an area called Slab City, in early May. His body was found on May 11. Poe was originally from Nashville, Tennessee and often posted about disability rights and Black Lives Matter on social media. He was also an artist, with several online stores where he displayed and sold his art.
- EJ Boykin, who also went by Novaa Watson, was killed in Lynchburg, Virginia on June 14. He had just recently celebrated his 23rd birthday on June 10 and was studying at Morgan State University. It appears EJ was also the parent of a young child. One of Boykin’s friends told HRC that “He was loved and like[d] by everyone. He was one of those people that was just good vibes and energy.”
- Aidelen Evans, a 24-year-old Black transgender woman, was found dead in March in Port Arthur, Texas. Initially investigated as suspicious, as of July, her death is being investigated as a homicide. Aidelen was originally from Beaumont, Texas and had recently spent time in Port Arthur, Beaumont and Houston. “Nobody — no parent should have to go through this,” said Lois Balka, Aidelen’s grandmother, in March. “You will always be in my heart.” Sadly, not much is currently known about Aidelen’s life.
- Taya Ashton, a 20-year-old Black trans woman, was killed in Suitland, Prince George’s County, Maryland on July 17. According to social media, friends and family held a vigil and balloon release to remember Taya. “Taya was just at the beginning of her life — a life that she deserved to live to its fullest,” said Lindsey Clark, HRC Associate Director of the Transgender Justice Initiative. “Black transgender women continue to be killed in this country, and this violence is unacceptable.”
- Shai Vanderpump, a 23-year-old Black trans woman, was killed in Trenton, New Jersey, on July 30. According to Garden State Equality, Shai was “a fierce LGBTQ advocate.” A GoFundMe remembered Shai as being known for her “style [and] love of family,” as someone who had a “heart of gold” and who “loved to dress, smile and see everyone happy and smiling.”
- Tierramarie Lewis, a 36-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Cleveland, Ohio on June 12. Due to misgendering and misnaming from local officials and a lack of media coverage, her death was not reported until recently. According to reporting from The Buckeye Flame, Tierramarie moved to Cleveland last year for a fresh start. One friend remembered Tierramarie as “a spirited girl… one day she would have purple hair, one day pink hair and always an outfit to go with those colors.”
- Miss CoCo, a 44-year-old trans woman of color, was killed in Dallas, Texas on August 7, 2021. According to Nu Trans Movement, she was “a well-known small girl with a big, bubbly personality. CoCo was a happy person [and] proud to be living her truth!” Sadly, not much beyond this is publicly known about Miss CoCo’s life at this time.
- Pooh Johnson, a 25- year-old Black trans woman, was killed in Shreveport, Louisiana on August 23, 2021. Johnson was an accomplished makeup artist under the name Titanizer. Sadly, not much beyond this is publicly known about Johnson’s life at this time.
These victims were killed by acquaintances, partners or strangers, some of whom have been arrested and charged, while others have yet to be identified. Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias. In others, the victim’s transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness and/or survival sex work.
While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women — and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities.
HRC Foundation’s “Dismantling a Culture of Violence” report demonstrates how anti-transgender stigma, denial of opportunity and increased risk factors compound to create a culture of violence — and provides clear ways that each of us can directly make an impact to make our society a safer place for transgender and gender non-conforming people.
As is too often the case in the reporting of anti-transgender violence, many of these victims are misgendered in local police statements and media reports, which can delay our awareness of deadly incidents. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect for transgender and gender non-conforming people in both life and death, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on these communities.