SEATTLE - It’s being called an epidemic of violence. 2020 has been the deadliest year for the transgender community with the majority of the victims being black and latinx.
Now a local transgender woman and activist is shedding light on the challenges that come with being a black trans woman in America.
If strength were measured by challenges overcome, Nicole Perry would be among the strongest. The journey from this masculine military veteran to transfeminine has changed more than her image.
“I was actually in the Marine Corps at the time when I finally realized this is who I am, there is no getting around that,” said Nicole Perry, with Washington’s Black Trans Taskforce.
If we let the numbers alone, tell the story, her physical appearance is what makes this journey perilous.
“Whenever I go out, my fiancé worries about me from the time I leave until I come back, so I sent her my location so she can always track where I’m at,” said Perry.
Fear of violence isn’t irrational. As we said, the numbers are telling. Fatal violence against the transgender community, nationwide, has significantly spiked in 2020 according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Starting right here in Seattle, you may remember the death of Summer Taylor. Taylor was struck and killed by an out of control driver, during a Black Femme march on July 4th. The video of the horrific incident shows, what some believed to be a crime motivated by hate. For now, the motive is still under investigation.
Taylor, is one of 33 transgender or gender non-conforming people to have been killed this year.
Washington, Oregon, California, and dozens of more lives taken in states that stretch from West to East.
The largest death toll, we’re seeing is in Puerto Rico, where six trans people were killed in just seven months.
“It paralyzes myself as well as some of my colleagues just to hear about yet another death,” said Perry.
The LGBTQ advocacy group has been keeping records since 2013 and calls this spike an “Epidemic of Violence” citing that the majority of the fatalities were among Black and Latinx trans women.
Perry, an advocate with the Washington Black Trans taskforce says the numbers are likely higher.
“There may have been a trans person who was murdered but because the police report misgenders them or uses their dead name, we don’t know about that person,” explained Perry.
The Human Rights Campaign says in a statement “Racism, transphobia and misogyny too often play a role in the deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially trans women of color. We must work together with lawmakers at all levels to ensure that policies have protections in place for trans people.”
Perry says legislative action is already in the works here in Washington.
For now, the priority remains safety.
“We try to work together as a community to protect each other so because we are more safe when we come together than when we are apart,” said Perry.
For comparison, 2017 held the previous high of transgender killings with 29.
With just over two months left in 2020, we’re already at 33.
There were at least five deaths in the last three weeks alone.