Transgender Day of Remembrance: Honoring the Lives Lost

November 19, 2010
Over the past year, many transgender people have lost their lives due to ruthless acts of violence triggered by bias, hatred and prejudice.  Tomorrow marks Transgender Day of Remembrance.  A time to mourn for the transgender people we have lost and also to honor their memory.  But also, to become more aware of how we can eliminate violence against transgender people in the future. GLAAD works to hold the media accountable for its action and words, especially regarding transgender issues.  We help to correct coverage of transgender hate crimes while ensuring that the victim's identity is treated with respect and honor -- for example, by educating the media to use pronouns consistent with a person's gender identity regardless of their biological sex or legal status. Misunderstanding and fear can be catalysts for violent attacks on transgender people.  This has to do with the lack of knowledge and lack of exposure to the transgender community. In fact, in a recent poll, 92% of people said that they have never known a transgender person.  Over the years, the work of GLAAD and other pro-LGBT organizations has shown that exposure increases acceptance.  The 'Pulse of Equality' survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that contributing factors to increased acceptance of gays and lesbians are all related to personal and media exposure. Most recently, GLAAD has worked hard to make people aware of the derogatory term "tr***y."  The word is all too often one of the last words a transgender person hears before they are beaten and/or murdered. In one incident, GLAAD addressed their concerns with MTV regarding a reunion episode of the hit show "The Jersey Shore" in which defamatory remarks were made about transgender people.  MTV issued an apology and the offensive material was taken out of the episode for future airings.  GLAAD is also set to conduct an educational session for MTV on trangender issues. Transgender Day of Remembrance honors the lives of those lost to unnecessary hatred and violence towards a community that struggles daily to be accepted for who they are.  On the eve of this very important day, GLAAD would like to take this opportunity to honor these individuals.  The faces below are the reason that we observe the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  All of the people below were murdered in 2010. ____

Amanda González-Andujar

Amanda was found in her Queens apartment on March 30 after being strangled to death. She was only 29 years old.  A man associated with her murder has been arrested and charged with second degree murder.  If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in prison. A friend of Amanda commented, “She was such a sweet person.  She was loved by everyone, so I just can’t figure who would do something like that to her.” Following outreach by GLAAD, the New York Times, NBC New York, and the New York Daily News all corrected Amanda's gender identity and her birth name in their articles about her murder.

Dana A. "Chanel" Larkin

Dana was shot in the head in Milwaukee, Wisconsin upon revealing her transgender status to a man she had just met.  Her murderer was caught and has pled guilty to second degree reckless homocide. Dana is described by Brenda Coley, a friend, as someone who "deeply cared about her community and was very authentic. She loved her family dearly and they accepted her for who she is. She was a delightful person with a sophisticated sense of humor and there are things she knew she could have taught us. Our lives would have been better because of it." Unfortunately, coverage on Dana's death used many incorrect stereotypes and terminology about transgender people, and advocated the problematic 'transgender panic' defense, while blaming Dana for her own murder.

Ashley Santiago Ocasio

Ashley was a popular hair stylist at a salon in Puerto Rico, and was just 31 years old when she was found shot to death in her home. The case attracted a lot of coverage, and strengthened previous complaints that Puerto Rico does not implement its 2002 hate crime law protecting victims on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Angie González Oquendo

Angie was found strangled to death in her apartment in Puerto Rico, just five weeks after the body of Ashley Santiago Ocasio was discovered.  Angie's murderer was suspected to be someone she had been dating.  She was 38 years old at the time of her death.

Victoria Carmen White

Victoria was shot multiple times inside her apartment on September 12 in Maplewood, New Jersey. She met her killers, two men, at a night club just hours before her death. She returned home with the two men and two friends. An altercation reportedly occurred once the men learned that she was transgender, leading to her death. Both men were arrested and charged with her murder. Police are considering adding hate crime charges as well.

Stacey Blahnik Lee

Stacey was 31 when she was strangled and suffocated to death in Philadelphia.  Her body was discovered by her boyfriend. Her murderer has not been found and the case remains open. Stacey was described as “really nice” and “very friendly” by those who knew her. In its initial report, Philadelphia Daily News coverage was problematic, including references to Stacy as transsexual, and the placement of her name in quotation marks while incorrectly using her birth name instead.  Upon consulting the reporter and editor, GLAAD helped the paper improve their coverage of Stacy's murder.

Myra Chanel Ical

Originally from Guatemala, Myra was found murdered this past January in Houston, Texas.  Police stated that she had defensive wounds, most likely from fighting back her attacker. Her murder marks the seventh transgender homocide in Houston to go unsolved over the last decade.  She was 51 years old. KRIV-Fox 26 Houston significantly improved their coverage on Myra's murder after GLAAD worked along with Pride Houston to correct problematic reporting.

Toni Alston Charlotte

Toni was shot to death on her front porch on April 3. She had worked at a nearby Family Dollar store and had recently been promoted to manager, her sisters said. They described her as a workaholic who was liked by everyone. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police homicide detective Bill Ward said Toni often helped local homeless people and was well liked in her neighborhood. First responders to the story of Toni’s murder identified her as a ‘cross dresser’ with an ‘alternative lifestyle’ and used male pronouns and her birth name instead of her chosen name.

Sandy Woulard

Sandy was found dead in the street on Chicago's South Side by a passerby. She was just 28 years old. She was found with money still in her purse, signaling a motivation greater than simple theft or robbery. Early media accounts of her death were not trans-friendly, and one article even called her "a man in a dress". Like the other cases, information was and remains scarce regarding her murder. ____ Hopefully, in the near future, hate crimes against transgender people will be non-existent and no more victims will be added to a list that is already too long.  GLAAD will continue to expose crimes motivated by transphobia, advocate for more coverage of the murders of transgender people, and promote  more accurate reporting of the gender non-conforming community. If you know of any transgender people who were killed and are not mentioned on this page, please help us honor their memory, and post their names below.