McElveen died only two days after another black trans woman, Chyna Doll Dupree, was shot and killed outside of a New Orleans shopping center. Five other trans women were killed this year:
- Mesha Caldwell, a hairstylist and makeup artist, was shot several times. She was found dead on a rural road near Canton, Mississippi.
- Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, who was studying social work and nursing and worked as a customer service agent, was found dead in her South Dakota home. Investigators believed it to be a homicide.
- Jojo Striker, an advocate for other trans women in her community, was found dead in a garage in Toledo, Ohio.
- In Monroe, Louisiana, Jaquarrius Holland, 18, was shot and killed during a verbal altercation. She loved to do makeup and hairstyling, according to a Mic interview with a friend of Holland.
- In Chicago, Keke Collier, who was also known as Tiara Richmond, was in a car with a man when the man fired his weapon. Once officers arrived, she was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds.
Last year was the deadliest year on record for transgender people, with 27 murders in total. The majority of the transgender people killed were trans women of color. According to the FBI’s most recent annual hate-crime report, bias-motivated incidents based on gender identity increased from 31 incidents in 2013 to 114 in 2015.
But this does not represent a full picture of gender identity-motivated hate crimes in the United States, since thousands of law enforcement agencies did not submit any data. The majority of those that did — 88 percent — reported zero hate crimes. Due to a possible lack of reporting or incomplete reporting of hate crimes, national organizations focusing on LGBTQ rights, such as the Human Rights Campaign, said the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act needs to be updated to mandate reporting and expand training for law enforcement.
Due to discrimination in employment, health care and housing, trans women experience economic barriers that often put their health and safety at risk. Trans women are 1.8 times more likely to experience sexual violence compared to other sexual assault survivors and trans people are nearly four times as likely to have a yearly household income below $1o,0oo. Police officers are often hostile to trans women, or worse, causing trans women to steer clear of law enforcement.
Even in death, trans women have been disrespected by their local police. McElveen was misgendered in media reports of her death after the New Orleans Police Department sent out an inaccurate press release. It’s fairly common for media and police to misgender trans women after their deaths. Dupree was identified as being a trans woman by the Times-Picayune, but the publication still used her birth name in the story of her death. Sometimes, police statements on the case appear to blame the trans murder victim. In the case of Striker’s death, Toledo Police told a local television station that her “criminal past” may have something to do with her death, Fusion reported. Striker was also misgendered in reports of her death.
Transgender people are also at greater risk for suicide, with 41 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people attempting suicide compared to 1.6 percent of the general population, according to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS). Researchers found that rates of attempted suicide rose for trans people who have a low household income, lost a job due to bias, and were sexually assaulted, among other factors.
This piece has been changed to reflect that another trans woman, Jaquarrius Holland, was shot and killed in Monroe, Louisiana in February. News reports about her death have continued to misgender her.