A report by Elliott Kozuch for the Human Rights Campaign.
HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Penélope Díaz Ramírez, a 31-year-old transgender woman killed at the Bayamon correctional complex in Puerto Rico on April 13. Her death is believed to be the ninth violent death of transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S.
“Never in my career have I seen so many reports of deaths of our transgender and gender non-conforming community in such a short time in one location. Penélope did not deserve to die. Transgender people do not deserve to die. Every single advocate, ally, elected official and community member must stand up in light of this horrific news and say ‘No more.’ What we are doing is not enough,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “Transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially women of color, are too often the victims of a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny. People and policy must work together to protect our lives and our well-being. HRC stands in solidarity with all who knew and loved Penélope, and we will continue our tireless fight to ensure a future where living one’s truth can never become a death sentence.”
In 2020, five of the nine deaths of trans and gender non-conforming people have been in Puerto Rico. Earlier this year, two other transgender people, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz (also known as Alexa) and Yampi Méndez Arocho, were killed in Puerto Rico. Just last week, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos and Layla Pelaez Sánchez were found dead.
“There is no longer any doubt, this is an epidemic of anti-LGBTTIQ violence. The police have the obligation to disclose the status of the investigations of at least eight murders, one death without a determined cause and several attacks in which LGBTTIQ people have been injured since January 2019,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of Coalition for the Search for Equity (CABE), an LGBTQ group on the island.
In November 2019, ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, HRC Foundation released “A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2019,” a heartbreaking report honoring the trans people killed and detailing the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence. Sadly, 2019 saw at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported.
We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation appearing at the local, state and federal levels because it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.
HRC will continue to hold the Trump-Pence administration and all elected officials who fuel the flames of hate accountable at the ballot box.
This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color — particularly Black transgender women — must cease.
For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit hrc.org/Transgender.