2020 was the deadliest year so far for violence against transgender people. In our YouTube video Top LGBTQ+ News Stories: Week of May 24/2021, we reported that there are 27 trans murders already this year.
Now it’s looking as though 2021 could be even worse after the recent death of a 21-year-old trans man, Poe Black. Black is the most recent victim in the United States epidemic of anti-trans violence. His death brings 2021’s official reported number of trans homicide victims up to 28 people. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has reported that this number surpasses all of 2019’s victims.
Anti-Trans Murders are on the Rise
In 2021, anti-trans homicides have already gone up by at least 300%. Allies and advocates are afraid that these numbers will continue to rise this year.
Last year, 44 transgender folks were murdered. If the numbers continue as they are, approximately 91 transgender people could lose their lives this year.
In May, there have already been nine homicides, with Black being the latest. The eight other trans people killed were Jahaira DeAlto, Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, Sophie Vásquez, Danika Henson, Serenity Hollis, Oliver Taylor, and Thomas Hardin. Many of these victims were transgender people of color.
It is also important to note that these numbers are likely lower than the reality, as mentioned by the HRC. The numbers are likely higher because trans murders victims can be challenging to identify due to misgendering or deadnaming. Also, police do not always consider these deaths to be homicides.
Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, spoke out about Black’s death and said the continual violence against trans people is “staggering.”
Black’s Death is Declared a Homicide
Black’s body was discovered in the Coachella Canal near Slab City on May 11. The LGBTQ+ news blog Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reported that Black was last seen “wandering around alone” when his partner and other campers relocated two weeks prior.
The Imperial County Sheriff’s Office has officially ruled Black’s murder as a homicide. They are in the process of searching for a suspect, according to their Facebook page. Unsurprisingly, the police statement deadnamed Black, an unfortunate and all too common occurrence with trans homicide victims.
About Poe Black
Black was also known by the names “Oliver Jackson” and as “Legion.” He identified as “mixed Indigenous” and of Wyandotte heritage. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women USA referred to Black as a “transgender, two-spirit relative.” They mentioned that he “suffered so much for the causes of justice for native people, for black people, for LGBT people, and anyone who needed to be stood up for.”
The organization wrote in a Facebook post that “he was truly loved and he truly loved people. He was a warrior.”
Black’s social media accounts showed him protesting for Black Lives Matter and his experiences as a disabled transgender artist facing challenges with housing instability. His Instagram included pictures of his dog, his art, and a GoFundMe campaign for top surgery, which he was able to pursue. After the surgery in July 2020, Black said, “Just know that right now, I’m at a better place, happier than I’ve ever been before.”
How You Can Help with Violence Against Trans People
HRC has launched a project called the “Count Me In” campaign. This initiative encourages everyone, LGBTQ+ folks, and allies, to make their voices heard, become more visible, and spread awareness in support of transgender and non-binary people.
When more people show they care, especially those who stand up for the most marginalized in the community, the more likely people can change their hearts and minds. Let us all do our part by reducing stigma toward the transgender community.