The recent killing of Felycya Harris, a Black transgender woman, marks a tragic milestone: It means 2020 is now tied as the deadliest year for transgender and gender-nonconforming people – and there are still three months left in the year.
That’s according to the Human Rights Campaign, which has been tracking that data since 2013.
Harris is at least the 31st transgender or gender-nonconforming person in the US to be killed this year, most of whom have been Black and Latinx transgender women, the organization said. 2017 saw 31 deaths.
“We mourn the individuals we have lost this year while remembering them for who they were: our partners, family members, friends and community members,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement.
“Not one of the 31 lives we have lost this year, or the 196 we have lost since 2013, deserved to have their lives or their futures taken from them.”
Transgender and gender-nonconforming people face risks that make them particularly vulnerable to homicide.
Some experience bias explicitly because of their gender identity. For others, their identity makes them more likely to experience other risk factors, such as unemployment, homelessness or engaging in sex work, experts say. Transgender people also face higher levels of intimate partner violence than cisgender people. The risks are compounded for trans women of color, especially Black women, who face the additional burden of racism.
The numbers of transgender and gender-nonconforming people killed this year are especially high, and the Human Rights Campaign says that some deaths are likely unreported or misreported.
But the organization also notes that the uptick could be a signal that news media, law enforcement and advocacy groups are reporting more incidents of fatal violence.
Harris was an interior decorator
Harris, 33, was an interior decorator and ran her own company.
“She enjoyed lending her eye to improve the surroundings of others, and made others feel comfortable in their own space,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a news release. “She said she could do ‘just about anything with decorating,’ which she learned from her late grandmother.”
Harris’ friends mourned her loss, recalling how she used to connect with others through Facebook Live.
“Only thing we got left now is just the memories and the pictures, and the videos,” Ricola Collier, a friend of Harris, told CNN affiliate WRDW. “Since the day I found out what happened, I go back and watch the videos every day,”
And one of the things that people would miss most, Collier said, was Harris’ smile.
“Everybody’s going to remember Felycya,” Collier said. “That laugh. The smile – the smiles. The talks. The arguments. The attitudes. Everybody is going to remember who Felycya Harris is. Nobody would ever forget who that is.”