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At 4am on July 20, 29-year-old Denali Berries Stuckey was found shot to death on the side of a road in Charleston, South Carolina, Out Magazine reports. Stuckey’s death is being investigated as a homicide, but police have not confirmed whether it is being investigated as a hate crime. Stuckey is the third known trans woman to have been murdered in South Carolina and the 12th to have been murdered in the United States this year alone. All of the victims were Black.

In an article for Vice, Diana Tourjée writes, “this latest string of murders has brought new clarity to the inseparability of anti-trans and anti-Black violence.” We cannot understand the motive of these crimes without addressing the stark racial disparity: Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter, tells Vice, “Black women are the most marginalized in our society. They experience the most violence.”

According to a 2015 report, Unerased, Black trans women are more than seven times as likely to be murdered than the average American. A survey by the National LGBTQ Task Force reports that Black trans people are twice as likely to be unemployed and more than twice as likely to live in extreme poverty than trans people of other races. Furthermore, Black trans people have reported experiencing homelessness at five times the rate of the U.S. general population.

As a result of these conditions, born out of systemic racism, trans women of color oftentimes turn to sex work as a means of survival. Aside from currently being criminalized, sex work is an especially dangerous profession for trans women: As Tourjée writes, “Black trans women aren’t simply killed because they’re trans; the social conditions responsible for their deaths represent a holistic crisis, spread across every aspect of life.” When the country, lacking in protections against anti-trans discrimination, fails to recognize ongoing systemic racism, it fails Black trans women. 

The systemic discrimination at the center of the murders of these women falls in line with the focus of Black Lives Matter. As said by Cullors, “Anti-Blackness is at the center of the murder of Black trans woman.” And Black trans people have been influential in the movement’s advancement: Kei Williams, an activist and Black trans person tells Vice, “There has been leadership from Black transgender people from the very founding… We’ve been here and we will always be here.”

The epidemic of violence against trans women is a crisis in which Cullors believes there should be more organization and allyship, regarding anti-trans violence, within Black Lives Matter. “The fight for Black trans people, and women in particular, is critical for the health of Black communities.”

Header photo, cropped for size, courtesy of David Geitgey Sierralupe via Flickr

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