We Must Do More Than Say The Names Of The Trans Women Murdered This Year

Say their names. Honor their lives. Remember how much work there is to be done.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August, and has been updated in honor of Transgender Day Of Remembrance today, Nov. 20, 2015.

At least 22 trans women have been reported murdered as a result of anti-trans hate so far this year, a majority of whom were women of color. That number gets even bigger when you include murders of trans women where the motive is unknown.

It should surprise no one then that Laverne Cox declared this a "state of emergency" for the trans community. Activists have been working to raise awareness about these women using hashtags like #SayHerName and #BlackTransLivesMatter, but things may be even worse than the numbers let on.

"We know this may be the tip of the iceberg -- a lot of homicides of trans women are either not reported or are invisible to the public because of misgendering and misnaming of victims by the police and by local media, or by a lack of media coverage or insensitive media coverage," LaLa Zannell, Community Organizer for the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told MTV News.

In our own effort to expand on "saying their names," MTV’s anti-bias campaign Look Different will host an online vigil beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET with participants including GLAAD and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Look Different will tweet a graphic featuring each woman’s name and call to end the violence from Black Trans Lives Matter activist Cherno Biko.

"A major culture shift happened this year, with unprecedented advancements in visibility and representation in the media," Biko said. "However, 2015 will go down in history as the deadliest year on record, with most of the violence happening against black trans women and gender non-conforming femmes of color. Let this moment serve as a wake-up call for our communities. For decades we channeled our energy and millions of dollars towards marriage equality and now that we won, we must recognize that we left behind our most vulnerable and at risk populations."

MTV News also took a closer look at who these women were while they were still alive. This is what we learned about 21 women who lost their lives far too soon.

Tamara Dominguez, 33

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

Killed on August 15, 2015

"Tamara was loved and cherished by her chosen family. She is survived by her partner of six years and her four dogs -- Luna, Travis, Sensei and Arigato," Randall Jenson, the executive director of the Kansas City Anti-violence project, wrote in the Huffington Post.

Jenson added, "Her partner shared, 'She was happy with who she was and it didn't matter what her family told her.' She was cherished for her smile, laughed always and was overall known as a sweet, gentle and generous person. Tamara was a beloved cook and her partner and chosen family loved her shrimp ceviche and empanadas.'"

India Clarke, 25

Hometown: Tampa, Florida

Killed on July 21, 2015

Before she was killed, India Clarke was studying to be a cosmetologist. Her mother, Thelma Clarke, told a Tampa Bay area TV station WTSP that India was "a good-hearted person, a very loving person," who loved to laugh and make others smile. She also recalled that "[India's] last words when [she] headed out the door were, 'Mom, I love you, Dad, I love you.'"

Amber Monroe, 20

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Killed on August 8, 2015

Trans activist Bre Campbell knew Amber through the Horizons Project, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and care for young people at Wayne State University. In an interview with Fusion, she recalled that Amber "loved to dance," and that "she was just funny, really funny ... She was very goal-oriented. ... Every time she said she would do something, it would get done."

Lakyra Dawson, who described herself as Amber's "gay aunt" told the site, “Amber was a firework. She was young, full of life, like all the young girls are. Fearless. She was a cool person. She cared for everybody.”

Papi Edwards, 20

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Killed on January 9, 2015

Little information is available about Papi Edwards, apart from the disturbing circumstances surrounding her murder. But a friend told BuzzFeed that some of Edwards' family members didn't approve of her gender identity, so she kept her trans identity quiet.

Lamia Beard, 30

Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia

Killed on January 17, 2015

“When we were in high school, Lamia was in the chorus,” Lamia Beard's sister, Kiara Parker, said in an interview with AlterNet.

Parker also said Lamia was such a good singer that “people would pay [her] to sing at funerals and weddings.” She told AlterNet that Lamia's favorite singer was Beyonce, that she spoke fluent French, loved to read, knew how to play oboe, piccolo and the flute, and that she aspired to be a music teacher. “She was a loving person,” she said.

Ty Underwood, 24

Hometown: Tyler, Texas

Killed on January 26, 2015

In an interview with CBS19, Ty Underwood's roommate said, “She was lovely, just a lovely person. Very real, down to earth person who didn't deserve this, did not deserve this at all."

Yazmin Vash Payne, 33

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Killed on January 31, 2015

After she was reportedly killed by her boyfriend, activists held a candlelight vigil outside her apartment in Yazmin Vash Payne's honor.

Jazzmun Crayton, who attended the vigil, didn't know Yazmin personally, but said it didn't matter. "[Yazmin] belonged to somebody," Crayton told CBS Los Angeles, "She was someone's child. Somebody cared for her. ... it's not fair. It doesn't make sense, and it's not right."

Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, 36

Hometown: San Francisco, California

Killed on February 1, 2015

Taja's mother, Pamela DeJesus, told SFGate that her daughter was actively involved in her church and worked as a volunteer at a food pantry. “Taja was beautiful inside and out," she said. “She was a rock for our family." She also reported that Taja loved Prince and Madonna.

Nikki Calma, who works at the Trans Thrive center in San Francisco, told SFGate that Taja was “always very bubbly and outspoken. ... She was always the first to volunteer and just wanted to participate in everything ... She was well known and will definitely be missed.”

Penny Proud, 21

Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana

Killed on February 10, 2015

After Penny Proud was killed, the New Orleans youth organization BreakOut! put up a billboard featuring an artist's rendition of Penny, along with a call to action to stop violence against trans women of color that included the hashtag #MakePennyProud.

According to the Advocate, Penny's grandmother reached out to BreakOut! after getting calls from several family members about the billboard. "My niece works at the sheriff's office, so she took a picture and sent it to me," she told the activists. "It's important to get the message out that all lives matter, no matter what gender they are."

Kristina Gomez Reinwald, 46

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Killed on February 15, 2015

Kristina Gomez Reinwald was an entertainer with lots of friends in Miami. Following her death, a large group of friends and local trans activists -- including Lauren Foster of the "Real Housewives of Miami" -- held a candlelight vigil in her honor.

"She was a wonderful entertainer, she was a wonderful human being," her friend Julio Delanuez told Local10 News during the vigil. "She showed a lot of love to everyone here."

London Chanel, 21

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Killed on May 18, 2015

Chanel's friend Kione Seymore told NBC Philadelphia that London "had a heart of gold. She hardly ever frowned. She always had a smile on her face. Her laughter was infectious. ... We are trans sisters. We shared a bond no one can understand."

NBC Philadelphia reported that Chanel had helped another friend, Aileen Brown-Henry, when she was homeless. "She was my heart and soul," Brown-Henry said. "She saved me a lot. She was my only friend." The same news report noted that Chanel's mother, Veronica Allen, said that although they'd experienced some strain over Chanel's transition, they had plans to make amends. "She was going to go to court and change her name and then she was going to come home," Allen said. "That's what we were working towards, but that man [who killed Chanel] took it away from me."

Mercedes Williamson, 17

Hometown: Rocky Creek, Alabama

Killed between May 30 and June 1, 2015

Mercedes was an aspiring cosmetologist who enjoyed spending time outdoors. She was estranged from her family, but her friend, 41-year-old Jeanie Miller, has said that she loved Mercedes like a "daughter."

"I couldn't believe it," Miller told the Sun Herald in an video interview. "I don't want to be here. I miss how she flipped her hair. I miss the crooked teeth with that beautiful smile. ... I just keep wanting her to walk through that door. ... I'll never have nobody like her again."

K.C. Haggard, 66

Hometown: Fresno, California

Killed on July 23, 2015

The Advocate has reported that, according to Facebook, Haggard "was retired and a graduate of Chapman University," and noted that in a Facebook post to her friends, Haggard had made a request to "'all TG [transgender] girls' -- to come 'hangout.'"

Shade Schuler, 22

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Killed on July 29, 2015

Shade Schuler's body was found in a field in Texas. After speaking with police on August 12, Nell Gaither of Trans Pride Initiative wrote on Facebook, "Her name was Ms. Shade, and she was only 22 years old. ... Our hearts and thoughts are with her family and friends who now must confront this unfortunate taking of life. May we find space in our hearts to celebrate her time with us and the lives she touched. May we find inspiration in this loss to work together, trans and cis alike, to end the violence that has taken so many of our trans siblings from us far too soon."

Kandis Capri, 35

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

Killed on August 11, 2015

On the GoFundMe page for her funeral service, Kandis' family and friends wrote, "It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our daughter, sister and friend Kandis Capri ... Kandis was such a loving and kind-hearted person."

Ashton O’Hara, 25

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Killed on July 14, 2015

According to a press release from Equality Michigan, Ashton identified as both transgender and gender-fluid, and was still electing to use male pronouns at the time of his death.

Equality Michigan also reports that, "Ashton knew exactly who he was even as young as 2 years old. He once said to his mom, 'Mama, you are so pretty, I want to be just like you when I grow up.' By all accounts, Ashton was full of love for his family and friends, and lived life on his terms. He loved kids, he loved to dance, perform at the clubs, and he loved doing hair (he taught himself how to braid extensions at the age of 4!)."

Elisha Walker, 20

Hometown: Smithfield, North Carolina

Found on August 14, 2015

Elisha Walker went missing last fall though little is known about the circumstances surrounding her death. But since her body was found in August, loved ones have been flooding her Facebook wall with hand-drawn portraits of Elisha and touching comments like, "R.I.P. Angel Elisha Walker regardless u were a great energetic, funny, and wonderful friend."

Another wrote, "My heart aches at the thought that someone could hurt such a sweet person. Angel Elisha Walker was kind, funny and so well mannered. I know justice will be served but this kind soul didn't deserve this. Rest in the Lord's arms."

Jasmine Collins, 32

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

Killed on August 24, 2015

Kris Wade, co-founder of the Justice Project, which works with human trafficking survivors and women engaged in survival sex work, told The Guardian that Jasmine was “just the typical girl out here” in Kansas City. The same report notes that Collins sometimes attended weekly Justice Project meetings at her local church, and that she'd spent time traveling out of town to take care of her sick father in the weeks leading up to her death.

Keyshia Blige, 33

Hometown: Aurora, Illinois

Killed on August 26, 2015

According to a report from The Guardian, Keyshia grew up lip-synching with her best friend Sasha Love in the church choir, and loved performing in drag before she began her transition. She was the victim of an anti-gay hate crime in 2011, which left her with nerve damage on her face and temporarily made her too afraid to dress up or perform. But Love explained that once Blige had regained her confidence and realized she wanted to be Keyshia full time, everything got better.

“When she would dress up, she would tell me ‘I love being Keyshia. I want to be Keyshia,'" Love told The Guardian. “She was the happiest I had ever seen her once she started transitioning.”

Zella Ziona

Hometown: Gaithersburg, Maryland

Killed on October 15, 2015

Barbie Johnson, a friend of Zella's, said in an interview with NBC, "She was just amazing. When Zella's around, there's not a single frown in the room." The same report said that Zella "was like a second mother to Johnson's daughter," and that "the child keeps asking, 'Where's Zella?'"

Another friend who wrote a memorial post for Zella on Instagram wrote, “I just can’t believe that you are gone ... I love you so much, we was just talking [about] you the other day. I miss [you] already. You helped me become the person that I am today. You encouraged me to be myself when it came to being the [person] that I wanted to become.”

Kiesha Jenkins

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Killed on October 6, 2015

According to a report from, Kiesha’s friends and family described her as “warm and vivacious.” Kiesha’s cousin Alfreda Johnson told the outlet that Kiesha was “crazy in a good way,” and her mother said that she was “jolly” and “kept you laughing.” The family also described her as being comfortable in her own skin, and exceptionally “sharp” when it came to fashion.

The same report noted, “[Kiesha’s] grandmother, who suffers from cancer, remembered Jenkins helping her out around the house, making sure her refrigerator was stocked and carrying her in her weakest moments. Jenkins graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School and, in her spare time, enjoyed drawing and designing tattoos for friends. She had hoped to use those skills professionally one day, her family said, in art school or as a graphic designer.”

Mya Hall, 27

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Killed on March 30, 2015

While we don’t know very much about Mya, we know she was cared about by her friends. In an interview with ABC 2, a friend of Mya, Ah'Tourai Stevens, called her “a wonderful person.”

To learn more about the violence faced by trans women and take action, visit Look Different.

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