7 Transgender Women of Color Were Killed in the First Two Months of 2017

March 4th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

Transgender communities consistently face higher rates of violence, and the first two months of 2017 revealed an uptick in the killings of transgender women, particularly transgender women of color.

There have been at least seven transgender women killed this year: six were black and one was Native American, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). From 2015 to 2016, the number of transgender people killed broke records - a staggering total of 27 last year, mostly women of color.

“The chilling reality of anti-transgender violence is an urgent crisis for our country,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a press release Tuesday. “Transgender women of color face a toxic combination of transphobia and racism that together fuel an environment of often fatal violence."

While the city was celebrating Mardis Gras, two transgender women were killed in New Orleans within 48 hours of each other, and authorities say the cases appear to be unrelated.

There have been cries for better protections for transgender women of color and to show that the lives of the seven slain women matter, ATTN: gathered their names and small details about them to shed light on this growing issue:

Mesha Caldwell, 41

Caldwell was the first transgender person who was reportedly killed this year. She was found dead on a road in Central Mississippi on Jan. 4., and The Advocate reports that she was shot several times. So far, there are no reports of any arrests.

"Not only did she help me, I mean, if kids walked around this neighborhood, kids walked around. She did hair, she did everything," friend Joe Boldin told local station WAPT. "This is a hate crime, for no reason. This is not just a regular person. We lost a sister, something that I never had."

Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28

Wounded Arrow was from South Dakota and a member of the Oglala Tribe. The two-spirit transgender woman was found dead in her apartment on Jan. 6, but authorities believed she was dead for several days.

Traditionally, Native American tribes recognized three to five gender roles, according to a 2016 opinion piece by Duane Brayboy for Indian Country Media Network. "LGBT Native Americans wanting to be identified within their respective tribes and not grouped with other races, officially adopted the term 'Two Spirit' from the Ojibwe language in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1989," he wrote. "Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand."

JoJo Striker, 23

Striker was found dead in an empty garage in Toledo, Ohio, on Feb. 8., after being shot once, according to The Advocate. There are no reports of arrests at the time.

"This is a hate crime and it needs to stop,” Shanda Striker, JoJo's mother, told local station WTOL.

Striker was initially misgendered in the first media reports about her death, prompting Equality Toledo to invite local media to a sensitivity workshop on transgender issues.



Tiara Richmond, 24

Richmond, also known as Keke Collier, was shot and killed in Chicago, Illinois, on Feb. 21 on the same street as two other transgender women in 2012. It was the second killing of a transgender woman in a six month time period, according to The Chicago Times's Homicide Watch Chicago. Witnesses reportedly said that Richmond was in a vehicle with a man when at some point he shot her, she fell onto the street, and, then, he left the scene in a red car.

"It was beautiful," LaSaia Wade, a transgender rights activist, told the Chicago Tribune about a Feb. 22 vigil for Richmond. "They partied, they laughed, they cried trying to remember and hold on to the memories of Keke and knowing that she was loved."

Chyna Doll Dupree Gibson, 31

Gibson, a popular pageant and ballroom performer, was shot and killed on Feb. 25 while visiting her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana, for Mardi Gras.

"Chyna Gibson had gone home to New Orleans like thousands of other people, [to] celebrate Mardi Gras and be with her family during that festive time," read a Feb. 26 press release by advocacy organization Black Trans Women Inc. "Instead, she was brutally murdered: Shot ten times and left to die in the parking lot of a New Orleans strip mall."

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) posted a tribute to Gibson calling her death a "senseless murder" and pledging to fight for transgender lives.


Ciara McElveen, 26

McElveen was stabbed multiple times in a car and then left on the street in New Orleans on Feb. 27, within two days of Gibson's killing. Witnesses saw a man get out of a black car, retrieve something from the trunk, walk to the passenger side, pull McElveen out of the car and drive off, according to the Times-Picayune.

Multiple media outlets reported that McElveen worked with the homeless community. Her aunt, Jean Brooks, told the Times-Picayune that her transgender niece recently became sober.

"She said she had just gotten out of jail a day or two ago," Brooks told the Times-Picayune about a conversation a day before MceElveen was killed. "That's where she was all those months. She said, 'I'm clean and sober. My body had a chance to clean itself up. I feel good about life.'"

Jaquarrius Holland, 18

Holland was shot and killed on Feb. 19 in Monroe, Louisiana, but her killing wasn't revealed to trackers of transgender homicides until early March because of misgendering in police reports and early media reports. The teenager's transition was reportedly not accepted by her family members and she sometimes struggled to find a place to stay, according to LGBTQ Nation.

Transgender teens like Holland need extra support, according to Shelby Chestnut, the director of community organizing and public advocacy for the The New York City Anti-Violence Project. “We need to protect transgender lives at all stages, but especially in youth where they experience bullying, family rejection and violence that affects them throughout their lives,” Chestnut told the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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