Advocates for LGBT people held a vigil at the N.C. State Capitol this week to honor the record number of transgender people whose lives were lost to violence in the past year.
Across the country, at least 25 transgender people are known to have been killed so far in 2017, including two transgender women who died in Charlotte, Derricka Banner and Sherrell Faulkner. Most of the victims were people of color.
The Human Rights Campaign says 25 is the highest number of such deaths ever recorded in a year. In 2016, at least 23 transgender people were killed, the group says.
“People are being murdered for who they are,” said Kelly Taylor, assistant director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, the sponsor of the vigil at the Capitol. “The violence seems to be increasing.”
Monday’s vigil was one of 11 planned across the state to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance, which began in 1999. And it comes at a time when LGBT rights are in the spotlight, from North Carolina’s repealed House Bill 2 (the so-called Bathroom Bill) to President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender troops, which has been blocked temporarily.
Victim advocates say it’s difficult to count how often transgender people are targeted for attacks in North Carolina because of their identities. The Human Rights Campaign, which tries to track deaths, says some of the cases involve clear anti-transgender bias, while in other cases, the victim’s transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as causing them to be pushed out of their home and onto the streets.
“While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable,” according to the campaign’s website.
The vigils were part of Transgender Awareness Week, established by advocates to raise the visibility of transgender people and address the issues they face.
On Thursday, the LGBT center offered what it called a Trans-Giving celebration, “for those who have too far to go, or nowhere to go, for a traditional Thanksgiving meal.” The center provided the turkey and beverages. Guests were asked to bring a side dish or make a cash donation.