On Monday, the LGBTQ community was granted a major coup after the Supreme Court ruled that a landmark anti-employee discrimination law also applied to gay, lesbian, and transgender people. But ultimately, this victory was bittersweet in light of two violent deaths of black transgender women in the United States the week prior.
On Monday, June 8th, the body of a woman named Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fells was found in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, alongside the Schuylkill River. Her body was found with stab wounds and she had suffered trauma to the head and face. Few details related to the investigation of her death have been released, but friends of Fells reportedly told WPVI-TV Action News that she had been seeing arguing with a male friend prior to her death. A GoFundMe set up by her family has raised more than $117,000.
Less than 24 hours later, on June 9th, a 25-year-old woman named Riah Milton was found shot multiple times during an apparent robbery attempt in Liberty Township, Ohio. According to initial local news reports, three people lured her to a park in order to steal her car and rob her, shooting her multiple times in the process. Two of the suspects have been arrested and charged with her murder; a third has yet to be apprehended.
According to her sister, Milton was also misgendered and dead named (i.e. referred to by the name on her birth certificate) by local media immediately following her violent death. A GoFundMe organized by her sister has been set up to cover funeral costs, raising more than $44,000 at the time of this writing.
In 2020, there have been 14 reported murders of trans or gender non-conforming people; in 2019, 26 transgender women were murdered in the United States, according to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, though these numbers may be even higher due to low reporting rates of violence against transgender people. Black transgender women are disproportionately more likely to be the victims of violence. In 2016, the murder rate for Black transgender women was 1 in 2,600, or more than seven times as high as that of the general population.
The tragic deaths of Fells and Milton come on the heels of the protests against racism and police brutality spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. A Black Trans Lives Matter rally in Brooklyn on Sunday attracted thousands of activists all dressed in white, coming together to mourn their deaths, as well as the deaths of countless black trans women.
“These two women — Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton — deserve to have their names known,” HRC president Alphonso David tells Rolling Stone. “As our country faces a long-overdue reckoning with the violence and indignities that Black people have dealt with for centuries, we must affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter. And we must do everything we can to ensure that we create policies and laws that lift up our transgender siblings, and communities where transgender people are not targeted for who they are.”