Jazz Alford was the 21st transgender American murdered this year
Jazz Alford, a 30-year-old black transgender woman from North Carolina, was found shot in her hotel room in Birmingham, Alabama. That makes her the 21st transgender person murdered this year in America (three other transgender individuals have also been found dead, but the circumstances are unclear). In fact, of all the transgender individuals murdered this year, all but one was a person of color and only two were men, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
In 2015, 21 transgender women were murdered total, the majority of whom were women of color, and 2016 isn’t looking any better in terms of violence against transgender women, and especially black transgender women. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), more than two thirds of all hate violence homicide victims are transgender women.
These numbers don’t even give a full picture of how much violence transgender women face. The NCAVP collects data on hate crimes, but in some places, people don’t report the death of a black, transgender woman as a hate crime, and the NCAVP estimates that the numbers are probably about 40 percent higher. Transgender black woman are “more marginalized economically and educationally,” according to Mara Keisling from the National Center for Transgender Equality. They basically “have a bullseye on their back,” Kiesling told TIME magazine.
The rate of violence toward the transgender community is at an all-time high, according to the center, despite many big steps for the community — transgender individuals are represented in the media and on television more than before and there has been some legal progress when it comes to discrimination based on gender (we’re not there yet, but it’s happening and making headlines more than ever). But those big steps increase the size of that theoretical bullseye on individuals’ backs — it’s dangerous to be out in the open and exposed like that.
Originally, Alford wasn’t identified as transgender by the media, even though Birmingham police say they knew all along, but weren’t able to speak to details of the ongoing murder investigation or whether it was a hate crime. Another transgender woman was shot this week in Birmingham, and on Wednesday, police arrested 23-year-old Denzell Thomas for the shooting and a home invasion. That woman is alive and recovering in the hospital, but now Thomas is a suspect in Alford’s murder.
Alford’s sister, Toya Milan (who’s also transgender), told AL.com her sister was loving and wouldn’t think anyone would want to hurt her. “People think [transgender people] are monsters, when really we just want to be accepted,” Milan said.
Alford’s murder investigation is ongoing.