Black Trans Woman Mesha Caldwell Is The First Trans Person Murdered in 2017

On Wednesday, 41-year-old Black trans woman Mesha Caldwell was found shot to death just outside Canton, Mississippi. She is the first reported trans murder of 2017, which is a monumentally fucked up sentence to have to write. Mesha Caldwell is the first. Her name will be at the top of every list we write of murdered trans women this year. There will be a list. Last year 23 trans people were reported murdered in the United States, breaking the previous year’s record of 22 trans murders.

According to Mic, Mesha Caldwell was a beautician and hairstylist. A family friend told Mic: “She always, always dressed like a girl. And as she grew up, she became beautiful just like a lady … I really don’t know why somebody would want to kill her … I don’t care what she put on. It looked good on her.” According to her Facebook profile, Mesha graduated from Canton High School and attended Jackson State University.

Here she is with her mom on Mother’s Day this year.

Most of the trans women who are reported murdered are victims of intimate partner violence, and most of their partners are men. Most of the trans women who are victims of murder are trans women of color, mostly Black trans and Latinx women. Trans women of color exist at the terrifying intersection of misogyny, racism, and transphobia. They are, by far, the victims of the most hate crimes in the LGBT community.

What’s extra horrifying this year is that the United States just elected a woman-hating, POC-hating, trans-hating, queer-hating president and vice-president, which has only emboldened Republican-led state legislatures. Five days into 2017 and trans-scapegoating legislation has already been introduced by GOP politicians around the country as Washington, Virginia, Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas filed “privacy acts” (formerly “bathroom bills”) as soon as their 2017 legislative sessions began. North Carolina’s HB2 is still essentially in effect too, thanks to deceitful bargaining from the GOP-led congress.

All of these initiatives are led by the “Family Research Council,” a white evangelical anti-LGBT group that seeks to gain political power by villainizing and dehumanizing gay and trans people. In 2016 44 anti-trans bills were introduced into state legislatures during the first three months of the year, surpassing the 21 that were introduced in 2015. You can expect a record year of hate-fueled legislation with Trump in the White House, especially since trans scapegoating has become a pet project of Breitbart.

The coming years are going to be the fights of our lives.

A note from our Trans Editor, Mey Rude:

If we’re going to claim to be allies and sisters and lovers and friends of Black and brown trans women, we can’t just only talk about them when they get murdered. That’s not really doing anything to help them. We need to hire Black and brown trans women, we need to pay Black and brown trans women, we need to listen to Black and brown trans women. I’m a trans Latina but I have a lot of privilege because of how light my skin is, but it pierces my heart every time someone from my twoc community is murdered like this. There are plenty of us who are ready and capable to take this problem on. But we need help. It’s hard for us to get jobs and housing and healthcare and just support. We need cis people and white people to step up and support us while we’re alive. Please, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m okay begging for help. If you search this site and the internet you’ll see Black and brown trans women telling you what you need to do. You need to listen.

You can start by reading this list of 24 things you can do to help trans women right now. If you live in a state that is planning to (or already has) introduced trans-scapegoating legislation, you can call your state representatives.

This is the list of trans women murdered so far in 2017.

Mesha Caldwell, 41 (Canton, Mississippi)

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. In my browser at first I just saw “Black Trans Woman Mesha Caldwell Is The First Trans Person” & I was hoping beyond hope that it wasn’t “Murdered” when I scrolled down but of course it was.

    I’m working to fight for a comprehensive transgender non-discrimination bill in NH this year (, what are other people doing?

    • They are. Obviously we mourn the life of every queer person lost to violence. We love everyone in our community and want the world to be safer for all of us. If I’m remembering correctly, of the 23 trans people murdered last year, three were trans men. And of the 22 in 2015, one was a trans man. Studies show that trans women — particularly black and latinx trans women — are by far the most targeted members of the LGBTQ community when it comes to violence. They also have a much harder time than anyone in the LGBTQ community gaining access to housing, healthcare, and education. They are most often murdered by intimate partners because they’re trans. If you click through our trans archives you will find that we add the murders of trans men to our lists of victims’ names, to honor their lives and mourn their deaths. The deaths of trans women happen at the inersection of racism, misogyny, and transphobia, and they happen with such frequency that it is considered by researchers and LGBTQ rights organizations to be a pandemic.

    • They are at a high risk of violence or death too, that is true.
      There is a bit writing and research (I can’t access the source)that suggests a very close rate of hate based violence, but it’s the difference between ‘put in place’ vs annihilate.

      Different flavors of awful are still awful.

      • But also like Heather stated transwomen have the hardest time getting their basic needs met in ,addition to just not being attacked or killed, and exist in a venn diagram of prejudice in our unjust world.

    • I feel sad that there is a “what about the men” comment here, now, of all places.

      And I’m especially sad to see this list start up already. We’re not even a week into 2017.

  2. I hate seeing any of my sisters die like this, but if you think it started with Trump, then get your head examined!

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