Less than two weeks out from Transgender Day of Remembrance, 2021 has officially become the deadliest year on record for trans Americans.
Marquiisha ’Quii’ Lawrence, a 28-year-old trans woman living in Greenville, South Carolina, was shot and killed on Thursday, November 4, according to a news release from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Her trans mother, Eboni Sinclaire, described her as a “very humbled free thinker” with an infectious smile and a heart of gold.
“Her favorite thing to do was to cook because she felt it filled the belly and fed the heart,” Sinclaire added. “[In] one of our last conversations, she said to me, ‘I’ve not always been the best I could be, but thank you for caring enough to still be here for me.'”
This year is now the most deadly on record for trans and gender non-conforming people. So far, at least 45 people have been killed. That number is likely an undercount given the ways officials misgender victims. https://t.co/Jwo12FA8MC
— Casey Parks (@caseyparks) November 9, 2021
Lawrence’s death is the latest in a disturbing uptick in violent crimes against trans and gender non-conforming Americans. Since January 1, 2021, at least 45 trans people in the United States were violently killed, a horrific new record high. That tally doesn’t include trans people who were misgendered after their deaths or whose killings went unreported.
This epidemic of violence disproportionately impacts transgender people of color, particularly Black trans women like Lawrence. Sadly, Lawrence was also misgendered in initial media and police reports of her death, according to HRC.
2021 has also been a banner year for anti-LGBTQ legislation. Since January 1, an unprecedented number of discriminatory bills have been introduced by Republican lawmakers in state legislatures across the country, according to an Axios report from March. A large number of them specifically take aim at trans kids’ access to student athletics, public facilities, and even life-saving gender-affirming health care. One such bill, Texas House Bill 25, a baseless anti-trans sports ban, was signed into law as recently as last month.
In a statement, Joni Madisson, HRC’s interim president, linked anti-transgender violence to the proliferation of transphobic rhetoric in the media and legislatures nationwide:
We are at a tragic and deeply upsetting moment: With the death of Marquiisha Lawrence, 2021 has become the deadliest year ever for transgender and gender non-conforming people. Each of these 45 names represents a whole person and a rich life torn from us by senseless violence, driven by bigotry and transphobia and stoked by people who hate and fear transgender people and the richness of their experience.
Dehumanizing rhetoric has real-life consequences for the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color but especially Black transgender women. As we have seen an unprecedented number of bills introduced in state legislatures attacking transgender youth and trans adults, the moment we are in is clear. They have attacked transgender people’s right to health care, right to exist in public, and right to live openly, with the ultimate goal of dehumanizing and erasing their lives and experiences.