Nationwide, trans communities are once again facing an epidemic of violence with trans women of color in particular bearing the brunt of it. Only two months into the new year, seven trans people have already been killed. The most recent killing was that of Chyna Carillo, a 24-year-old Latinx trans woman, by Juan Carter Hernandez, in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. While these killings are devastating no matter what, there is additional horror in noting that 2021 may end up being a deadlier year than 2020 was for trans communities.
With her reported murder, Carillo became the seventh trans person to be killed in 2021. In a statement mourning Carillo's death, the Human Rights Campaign reported that police arrived on scene to see Hernandez beating Carillo in the yard of a home. After failing to comply with orders to stop his assault, Hernandez, who was previously convicted for shooting and killing his then-20-year-old wife, was shot and killed by New Wilmington police. Police said they are not going to charge Carillo's killing as a hate crime, per Them.
The HRC noted that Cairllo would have celebrated her 25th birthday on March 3. Mayra Carillo, her aunt, described her as a "beautiful, magic mermaid." She went on to add, "I always called her that. She's my mermaid, and we miss her. We miss her terribly."
Carillo's killing is particularly hard for communities in Pennsylvania because of how frequent violence against trans women is there. Them reported that last year both Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Tracy Green were killed in Pennsylvania. In addition, there is the death of Tatianna Hall, although it has not officially been declared a homicide.
Last year, the Human Rights Campaign recorded 44 instances of trans and gender non-conforming people being killed. Per the HRC, that made 2020 the most violent year on record for trans people since the organization began keeping track of these numbers in 2013. There may be unreported killings for both 2020 and 2021, but when broken down by race, it becomes clear that Black trans women are being killed at disturbingly higher rates. In Unerased, a comprehensive look at transgender murders since 2010, Mic broke down that 1 in 19,000 people are murdered every year in the general population. For Black trans women, the number jumps to 1 in 2,600.
In a statement, Tori Cooper of the HRC warned, "If this alarming rate of fatal violence persists, we will either match or surpass last year’s total number of 44 deaths, which marked 2020 as the deadliest year on record for our community. We must speak up and speak out. Everyone must take action to end the violence against our community and we must do so together as one LGBTQ+ community."
The news of Carillo's killing comes not too long after the introduction of the Equality Act to Congress. This act, which President Biden pledged to sign within his first 100 days in office, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act. Because those two categories are not included at the moment, trans people are left without much defense against systemic forms of violence and discrimination.
"Full equality has been denied to LGBTQ+ Americans and their families for far too long. Despite the extraordinary progress the LGBTQ+ community has made to secure their basic civil rights, discrimination is still rampant in many areas of our society," Biden said in a statement. "The Equality Act provides long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, locking in critical safeguards in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems — and codifying the courage and resilience of the LGBTQ+ movement into enduring law."