Since this time last year, too many trans and nonbinary people in the U.S. have lost their lives due to hatred and ignorance. The majority of them were trans women of color. For this yearly feature, we curate information to provide little windows into the lives of the trans and nonbinary individuals who were killed in the last 12 months – from August of 2020 to August of 2021. We hope to convey who they were as people and the joys they had in their lives.
Frequently, media reports portray trans murders as informational crime stories, reducing the victims to statistics. At the end of each year, we inevitably get stories in the media about the number we have lost. And that number often takes center stage in the headline. But the trans people who lost their lives in the past twelve months were not numbers. They were human beings — each one had a personality, family and friends, jobs, aspirations, hobbies, doubts and insecurities. They were creative, kind, talented, courageous, generous and loving. Each person contained multitudes.
While great strides have been made in terms of providing protection for trans and nonbinary people, advocacting for their safety, and educating the public about trans ways of being, there still exists a barrage of hateful rhetoric, transphobic legislation and stigma surrounding trans bodies that contributes to ongoing attacks against the trans community. No one should be subjected to such heinous violence simply for living outwardly and authentically.
While PGN primarily covers the Philadelphia region, trans people are being killed all across the U.S. We’re thankful for the work of all news outlets who highlight trans stories and voices, many of whom we’ve credited in the feature.
When it comes to people about whom there exists little public information, we decided to convey their humanity through the average number of times their heart beat in their lifetime. The human heart beats approximately 35 million times a year. We know that the measure of a life is so much more than mere heartbeats. We also know that the measure of a person is so much more than how they died. That’s why we celebrate the joys of the people we have lost, so that people remember them for the totality of who they were.
Mia Green’s friends shared on social media that “she had a smile that was so perfect and so contagious;” that “she could make anyone in her presence laugh;” and that she was “such a sweet spirit.” Mia frequented the Pittsburgh area and made close connections to people there.
Kee Sam grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana. Her heart beat over 864 million times.
Aerrion Burnett “was a goddess,” her friend Korea Kelly told KCTV. “Can you hear me? Fun! When I say goddess, she was everything. If you wanted to have a good day, you need to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.”
Michelle “Michellyn” Ramos Vargas was passionate about helping people, and she was studying to become a nurse at Ponce Paramedical College in Puerto Rico.
Scott Devore, who also went by Scottlynn Kelly Devore, was remembered by friends and family as sweet and beautiful and “the best friend anyone could have,” HRC posted.
Lea Rayshon Daye enjoyed listening to music including Rihanna and Aaliyah. She enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Her mother said she aspired to be a model, and her aunt Sherika told Cleveland.com that “She liked her crop-tops. She liked to be pretty. And she just wanted to be herself. She didn’t want to be judged.”
Felycya Harris loved to dance and ran her own interior decorating company. Her friend Ricola Collier told WRDW that “Everybody’s going to remember Felycya. That laugh. The smile — the smiles. The talks. The arguments. The attitudes. Everybody is going to remember who Felycya Harris is. Nobody would ever forget who that is.”
Brooklyn Deshuna was studying to become a cosmetologist. Friends of Brooklyn posted on social media that she was “genuinely a good person.”
Sara Blackwood enjoyed playing video games and the show “My Little Pony.” Her friend Bonnie Lambeth told CNN that she “identified the most with [the “My Little Pony” character Fluttershy] because she was shy like her.” Another friend, Jimmy Johnson, told Fox59 “she was very sweet and a very good person.”
Angel Unique was a cosmetologist. Her friend Takia Weddle told ABC24 in Memphis that “everybody that knew Angel knew that she was very funny. Very nice to everybody she met.”
Skylar Heath grew up in Miami. Her heart beat over 721 million times.
Yunieski Carey Herrera, who also went by the name Yuni Carey, was a model, dancer and performer who competed in and won many beauty pageants. “Besides being strikingly beautiful, she was kind and she was good and she cared as much about others as she would about herself,” her friend Raul Griffith told WPLG. “She was a very special person for many people.”
Asia Jynaé Foster wrote on her Facebook page: “To be grown is to GROW for your future, and not DWELL in the past.” Montrose Grace Place, a nonprofit in Houston, wrote that “Asia was outgoing, funny, and she could put together a read that left everyone around her scrambling to pick up their jaws.”
Chae’Meshia Simms was well-loved and always cared for others, her father told WTVR. Other friends and family remembered her as good, kind, and caring. She used the nickname “ChaeChae” on her Facebook page.
Kimberly Fial helped staff at Grace Baptist Church, including serving dinner and distributing morning coffee, shelter manager Anthony Mastrocola told the Mercury News. “My heart always felt warm when I saw her when I got into the building,” Mastrocola said. Friends said Fial loved wearing bright colors and enjoyed drinking Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper.
Jaheim Pugh, who also went by Jaheim Barbie, enjoyed Mardi Gras and wanted to go to Paris, Jaheim’s mother told NBC15. HRC reported that friends remembered Jaheim on social media as “the life of the party,” “such a bright light,” and “so loving.”
Courtney Eshay Key was “the life of the party – hilarious and determined,” friends told CBS 2. “She wanted to be something,” said lifelong friend Beverly Ross. “She wanted to beat the odds.”
Alexandria Winchester “was so smart and so full of joy even though she was new to Harlem, new to the streets, and new to her identity,” Bill Torres of the Ali Forney Center told Gay City News. Marcié Kumah, an LGBTQ advocate and mentor of Winchester’s, said Winchester was witty, outspoken, and “a young girl getting her life.”
Tyianna Alexander, who also went by Davarea Alexander, was described by her best friend Nakyla Bowman as someone knowledgeable about fashion and who loved to dance, according to a story in Block Club Chicago. Bowman said that having Alexander as a support system as the two transitioned together was a “blessing.” Alexander helped Bowman do her hair and taught her dance moves, including how to vogue, and the two went to balls together.
Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín wrote on his Facebook page, “a new year to come, grateful for all the experiences who [taught] me how strong we really are, to life, to good and bad, and for all justice that is forth to come,” NBC News reported.
Bianca “Muffin” Bankz was “just blossoming into herself,” Trans Housing Coalition Founder and Co-director Jesse Pratt López told The Advocate. Bankz got her nickname from her love of blueberry muffins, and aspired to compete on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” according to reports by the HRC and The Advocate. Her friends characterized her as “sweet and kind.”
Dominique Jackson was the Mother of the Hause of Redd, and founder of The Laddi Red Inc., as per her Facebook page, HRC reported. The Clarion Ledger reported that Jackon’s friend Alexis Owens described her as having “an exuberance for life,” that she wore colorful outfits, and was gifted at hairstyling.
Fifty Bandz’s friends posted comments on her Instagram account, saying that they miss her, love her and think about her. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) reported that Bandz’s social media pages revealed her love of fashion, dancing at clubs and getting her hair done.
Alexus Braxton, who also went by Kimmy Icon Braxton, was a hairstylist who frequently shared social media posts about spending time with friends, fashion and overcoming hurdles in life, HRC reported. Her tagline on Facebook says, “I’m a trans [person] living my truth.” Another of Braxton’s social media posts reads, “they can’t stop my shine.”
Chyna Carrillo worked in nursing home care and moved from Arkansas to Pennsylvania to start anew, WKBN reported. She described herself on Facebook as “outspoken” and “unapologetic.” Carrillo’s loved ones described her as “a beautiful soul.” Another friend told WKBN that when he was around Carrillo, “it felt like my world would light up.”
Jeffrey Bright was the sibling of Jasmine Cannady. He went to Ambridge High School in Pennsylvania, and was active in the LGBTQ youth organization PRISM. According to the NCAVP, representatives from PRISM called Bright a “beautiful person with the brightest eyes and smile.”
Jasmine Cannady was the sibling of Jeffrey Bright. Cannady was nonbinary and periodically accompanied their brother, Bright, to PRISM meetings, the Pittsburgh City Paper reported. PRISM staff members described Cannady as “sweet, shy and artistic.”
Jenna Franks, was very active in the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Dennis Biancuzzo, the center’s executive director, described Franks as “very loving and very friendly,” ABC 11 reported. Biancuzzo told The Advocate that Franks was “loved by many people in Jacksonville.”
Diamond Kyree Sanders was described as “a ball of energy as a child and even up to her time of death.” She placed great importance on family, and at a recent family dinner expressed how thankful she was that her loved ones accepted her authentic self. She frequently traveled and was passionate about fashion.
Rayanna Pardo was loved by friends and family. A former co-worker of Pardo’s wrote on social media that they had “an amazing time together,” HRC reported. Another friend wrote that they worked closely with Pardo and that she had just begun to take steps to improve her life. The Advocate reported that Bamby Salcedo, president of the [email protected] Coalition, said Pardo “was such a beautiful person who just wanted to live her life and be herself.”
Jaida Peterson’s frequent social media posts included birthday wishes, conversations and videos, indicating an active social life, according to HRC. A community vigil and social media messages from family and friends showed that Peterson was well-loved. Her sister wrote, “you are going to be truly missed and once again we love you always.”
Dominique Lucious’ cousin Ciara Williams told The Advocate that Lucious was “strong, brave and big-hearted.” Williams said that in their youth, she and Lucious experienced homelessness, but that Lucious always ensured that Williams had a safe place to stay even if she herself did not. Lucious’ Facebook profile tagline reads in part, “I’m a Trans female. Don’t understand? Ask!”
Remy Fennell worked as a hairdresser and owned the business Bosskreations. According to HRC, Fennell’s aunt, Shawnta Jones, posted on Facebook that Fennell was a lively young woman who was “trying to make it and was doing it.” Jones told 13 News Now that Fennell was “a beautiful soul and very talented with hair.”
Tiara Banks’ heart beat approximately 840 million times.
Natalia Smüt was a popular drag artist who performed in San José and the Bay Area, The Advocate reported. She was also passionate about advocacy in the queer community. Part of her Facebook tagline reads, “spreading individuality & self love.” San Francisco CBS Local reported that Smüt’s sister said she was beautiful, had a huge heart and “would just light up a room as soon as she walked in.”
Iris Santos’ social media posts show that she was loved and will be missed. Her heart beat around 770 million times.
Tiffany Thomas’ friends described her as large-hearted, funny, stylish and someone who laughed a lot, according to the U.K. outlet Pink News.
Keri Washington’s heart beat approximately 1.7 billion times.
Jahaira DeAlto was known for advocating for trans people and those who experienced domestic violence. Nolan Tesis, a good friend of DeAlto’s, told WGBH “she was a mother to so many that didn’t have parents” in the LGBTQ community. She was heavily ensconced in the Boston ballroom scene as a member of the House of Balenciaga. She helped start Berkshire Pride and Berkshire Transgender Day of Remembrance, according to The Berkshire Eagle.
Whispering Wind Bear Spirit shared meaningful quotes on their social media pages, including words from Maya Angelou. They described their heritage on social media as “Shawnee by birth and Potawatomi by relations,” HRC reported. Friends and family expressed warm feelings about Whispering Wind on Facebook. One person described them as “a beautiful and kind soul.”
Sophie Vásquez was part of Community Estrella, stylized as EsTr(El / La), an Atlanta-based group that supports the local trans community, HRC reported via the Spanish-language publication El Nuevo Georgia. Vásquez’s friends and family have been memorializing her on social media, describing her as extremely kind, having an upbeat disposition and frequently making people laugh.
Danika “Danny” Henson’s friends and family lovingly remember her as big-hearted, full of love and exceptionally kind, according to HRC. Henson also went by the nicknames Pryynce Daniel and Niia Da Don on social media.
Serenity Hollis posted on Facebook, “Life is a journey I just wanna enjoy the ride.” Her heart beat around 840 million times.
Oliver “Ollie” Taylor was a student at Gervais High School. He created art, took photos and wrote poetry, the Statesman Journal reported. Taylor was inventive, risk-taking and had a following on social media. Someone who knew Taylor told the press, “when he came into your life, he was there to make a difference.”
Thomas Hardin identified as a woman and used both she and he pronouns. Loved ones remember her as “someone who always kept you laughing,” according to HRC. Friends also described Hardin as an “affable wisecracker,” Pink News reported.
Poe Black was an artist from Nashville, Tenn. who sold his art through online stores. He also went by Oliver Jackson and Legion. He frequently published Facebook posts about disability rights and the Black Lives Matter movement. The Los Angeles Blade reported that Black identified with his heritage as a “descendent of the Wyandot Native American tribe” and considered himself a two-spirit transgender man.
EJ Boykin hailed from Baltimore and was studying at Morgan State University in Maryland, the Washington Blade reported. A good friend of Boykin’s told The News & Advance that many people liked and loved him and that he gave off positive vibes.
Aidelen Evans’ grandmother, Lois Balka, told Metro Weekly that she loved and missed her granddaughter even though the two had their differences. “You will always be in my heart,” Balka said.
Taya Ashton had family and friends who loved her, as indicated by the crowd of over 200 people who attended a vigil honoring her life, The Advocate reported. Her heart beat roughly 700 million times.
Shai Vanderpump was known as a strong advocate for LGBTQ communities in Trenton and around New Jersey, according to a Facebook post by the organization Garden State Equality. Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the HRC’s Justice Initiative, told PhillyVoice that the loss of Vanderpump “will be felt by her friends, family and local community, as well as the wider LGBTQ community.”
Tierramarie Lewis came to Cleveland, Ohio for a fresh start, The Buckeye Flame reported. She sought services from the Trans Wellness group at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. A friend described Lewis as “a spirited girl,” who changed her hair color from one day to the next and wore outfits to match. An employee of the Trans Wellness group said that Lewis “always gave kindness.”
CoCo Chanel Wortham was “a giving and kind person who never said no to anyone,” her friend Dymond Rocke told the Dallas Voice. She was also skilled in cosmetology. The Nu Trans Movement described CoCo as “a well-known small girl with a big, bubbly personality. CoCo was a happy person [and] proud to be living her truth!”