The number of fatalities for transgender individuals is rising at an exponential rate in 2020.
Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, a Black trans woman, was stabbed while at a vigil for another homicide victim in Portland. The 32-year-old became the 26th trans or gender-nonconforming individual killed in the United States this year, Them reported.
According to The Oregonian, the fatal incident happened when a fight broke out during the vigil for Tyrell Penney on Tuesday. Rhone-Spears, who was in the crowd of about 30 people, died at the scene after getting stabbed amid the chaos. A second person was also stabbed at the vigil, but police didn't disclose their injuries.
Police said that while multiple people witnessed the killing, officers at the scene were met with "hostility and a lack of cooperation,” Out reported.
Friends and family of Rhone-Spears took to social media after the tragedy, calling her death "a great loss."
One Facebook user, who described herself as a neighbor of the 32-year-old, said Rhone-Spears "was a vibrant personality."
Another person posted a video of a recent birthday celebration with Rhone-Spears.
According to Gay Times, two other Black trans women were killed in the same week as Rhone-Spears. One of them is Dior H. Ova, who was stabbed in the Bronx on July 26. A day later, 24-year-old Queasha D. Hardy was shot and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said the violence against transgender people is an epidemic like none before.
“Who else has to die before this country stands up and demands that we put an end to this epidemic of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, and especially Black trans women like Dior Ova,” Cooper said in a statement.
Marilyn Cazares, a 22-year-old trans woman, was also killed last month, as Blavity previously reported. Cazares was found dead in an abandoned building in the Southern California suburb of Brawley. Brayla Stone, a 17-year-old teen in Arkansas, was yet another transgender person who lost her life too soon. A man was arrested in connection to the murder after Stone was found dead in a car in the Little Rock suburb of Sherwood on June 25.
"These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members," the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) 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."
Just eight months into 2020, the number of people killed this year is frighteningly proximate to the number of fatalities of trans and gender-nonconforming people throughout the entirety of 2019. Last year, there were 27 known killings of trans and gender-nonconforming people. According to the HRC, there aren't enough federal legal protections for trans people.
"Nationally, despite some marginal gains in state and local policies that support and affirm transgender people, recent years have been marked by anti-LGBTQ attacks at all levels of government," the organization stated.
The HRC started tracking the number of transgender deaths in 2013.
"Advocates have never seen such a high number at this point in the year," the HRC stated. "This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color — particularly Black transgender women — must cease."