The death toll of transgender individuals continues to rise in 2020. According to Them, there are now 23 transgender people who have been killed this year.
The latest victim is 22-year-old Marilyn Cazares. Cazares, a transgender woman, was found dead in an abandoned building in the Southern California suburb of Brawley on July 13. Firefighters were responding to a small fire near the building when they found the young woman’s body.
According to KYMA, Cazares was staying in the building and had also been living on the streets. Although police haven't released much information on the case, they said her death is being investigated as a homicide.
Friends and family members described the kind of person she was.
“[She] was very loved for [her] charisma, [she] was very brave, [she] was very outspoken, [she] loved to be beautiful, she was very beautiful,” said Mindy Garcia, Cazares’ aunt.
Mary Ann Issac, an office manager for community organization Brawley Feed the Need, said Cazares would often visit when the group offered food for those in need. Isaac said Cazares is going to be really missed.
"[She] didn't deserve this. [She] didn't, not at all,” Isaac said.
According to The Desert Review, Cazares had been nicknamed Marilyn and Monroe. Cazares was raised by her grandmother along with two siblings after their parents separated.
Cazares’ aunt, Sonia Casteñeda, said she was bullied as a child for being “a little bit different.”
"You know how when you're different, people don't understand it, especially kids. Kids can be cruel sometimes,” Casteñeda said. “Then [she] found [her] true self and [she] was OK with [herself].”
Casteñeda said Cazares was always welcome to live with the family but that she preferred to live on the streets.
“Apparently [she] was a different person when [she] was out on the street; that's where [she] wanted to be,” Casteñeda said. “[She] had a home, but [she] wanted to be on the street, if you can understand that.”
According to the Human Rights Campaign, transgender people in the U.S. are being killed at a higher rate than in previous years, as Blavity previously reported. In 2019, at least 27 transgender or gender-nonconforming people in the United States were killed, the organization reported.
"These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members," the organization stated on its website. "They worked, went to school and attended church. They were real people — people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them."
Brayla Stone, a 17-year-old transgender teen in Arkansas, was killed last month. A man was arrested in connection to the death after Stone was found dead in a car in the Little Rock suburb of Sherwood.
Other transgender individuals who have been the victims of homicides recently include Dominique Rem’mie Fells in Pennsylvania and Riah Milton in Ohio, as Blavity previously reported. Selena Reyes-Hernandez, a 37-year-old trans woman in Chicago, was killed on May 31.
Advocates for transgender individuals have also raised concerns about deadnaming, which is the act of referring to a transgender person by the name they used prior to transitioning, as defined by Merriam-Webster.
Milton's sister expressed her concern after police misidentified her sibling, as Blavity previously reported.
“It cost nothing to call me Ariel,” Ariel Mary Ann told FOX19. “To use ‘she, her’ pronouns. To call her Riah. To say that she was my sister. It cost you nothing.”
The family of Cazares has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover funeral costs.