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South Carolina cosmetologist is the 12th black trans woman to have been killed in 2019

Denali Berries Stuckey's family buried her this weekend.

Denali Berries Stuckey, a South Carolina cosmetologist, is the 12th black trans woman to have been killed in 2019.
Denali Berries Stuckey, a South Carolina cosmetologist, is the 12th black trans woman to have been killed in 2019. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

A South Carolina family buried their loved one on Saturday after she was gunned down by an unknown assailant last weekend.

Denali Berries Stuckey, 29, a black trans woman, was found dead on the shoulder of a road in North Charleston, South Carolina, last weekend. The police have not yet identified a suspect or a motive. She is at least the 12th black trans woman to be murdered this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Her death is eerily similar to the murders of several other black trans women this year. In May, Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was found face down in the street, dead from a gunshot wound. In June, Zoe Spears, 23, was found lying in the street dead of gunshot wounds in Fairmount Heights, Maryland, only a few months after the gun-related death of another black trans woman in the same neighborhood, Ashanti Carmon.

Aside from her work as a cosmetologist, Stuckey ran a childcare business. A family friend, Ron’Rico Judon, told ABC7, “She was a free spirit. She was very outspoken. If you didn’t like the fact that she was trans, she would give you a piece of her mind.”

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Mercdeas Arline, another friend of Stuckey’s, told Live5News, “She was always a nurturing person. A very sweet person. Any anniversary, any birthday, event, anything representing or celebrating you, she was always there. I feel some type of way because I know she’s not going to be here no more, and I won’t be able to hear her laugh. And, she had this distinctive laugh that I swear keeps playing in my head.”

An LGBTQ group in South Carolina, Alliance For Full Acceptance, as well as other local LGBTQ groups, hosted a vigil for Stuckey last week. The coroner’s office, as well as some local media outlets, misgendered Stuckey when the news of her death first broke. This happens fairly regularly after the deaths of trans women. When Chanel Scurlock, a 23-year-old black trans woman, was shot and killed in North Carolina this year and found in a field, local media, police, and even family misgendered her, according to The Advocate. Her friends and local activists helped identify her as a trans woman.

Those suspected of killing trans women have ranged from strangers to acquaintances to partners, but in many cases, police have not identified the person or persons responsible for their deaths. In 2018, at least 26 transgender people died after being shot, stabbed, set on fire, or choked to death. In 2017, there were at least 29 deaths, and in 2016, the count was 23 according to the Human Rights Campaign. At least 128 trans people have been murdered since 2013, and 80% of them were people of color.

Violence against trans women has often happened in different contexts than violence against other people in the LGBTQ community. A 2017 report from the National Coalition of AntiViolence Programs found that people in the LGBTQ community who have experienced hate violence were most commonly subjected to it at a private residence or the workplace. But trans women were nearly three times more likely to experience violence on the street.

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After Spears’ and Carmon’s deaths, Gillian Branstetter, spokesperson for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told ThinkProgress that violence against black trans women is “a manifestation of several inequities,” including “a lack of stable housing, income, wealth, support networks, and health care,” which may all “contribute to a person’s vulnerability to violence” as well as racism, transmisogyny, police harassment, displacement, and the criminalization of sex work.

There has been more attention on the matter of late. During the first Democratic presidential debate in June, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) commented on the deaths of trans people of color. “We do not talk enough about trans Americans, especially African American trans Americans and the incredibly high rates of murder right now,” Booker said.

He added, “We need to have a president who will fight and protect LGBTQ Americans every single day from violence.”