In the early morning of October 6th, the 20th trans woman to be murdered in the United States this year lost her life. Her name was Keisha Jenkins and she was just 22 years old. She was a Philadelphia native who previously attended West Philadelphia High School and was attending Temple University at the time of her death.
Jenkins was attacked by five or six men shortly after getting out of a car at 2:30 AM in Philadelphia. They beat her until she fell to the ground and then shot her. The news of a 20th trans woman being murdered this year was disturbing enough, and the viciousness of her attack just adds to it. According to Homicide Capt. James Clark, “obviously, it looks like she was targeted, but we don’t know yet for what reason.” The police are offering a $20,000 reward for information on her murder and ask anyone with knowledge to call police at 205-686-TIPS or the homicide unit at 215-686-3334.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s liaison to the LGBT community, Nellie Fitzpatrick, said that Jenkins’ death was “a tremendous and tragic loss for the entire city, our LGBT community, and, more specifically, our trans community… This type of wicked, inhumane violence just has no place here. We can’t take it anymore. It’s just too much.” She added that “The violence against the trans community, specifically trans women of color, is an absolute, widespread national problem. And the problem isn’t solved by solving each homicide after it happens. The solution is in our society — making sure that any level of stigma or lack of access is completely eliminated for everyone.”
The other trans women reported murdered this year are Tamara Dominguez, Elisha Walker (who went missing late in 2014), Kandis Capri, Amber Monroe, Shade Schuler, K.C. Haggard, India Clarke, Ashton O’Hara, Jasmine Collins, Mercedes Williamson, London Chanel, Keyshia Blige, Kristina Gomez Reinwald, Penny Proud, Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, Yazmin Vash Payne, Ty Underwood, Lamia Beard and Papi Edwards. Nearly all of these women were Black and/or Latinx. Eleven out of the twenty have been 25 years old or younger. Jenkins is the second trans woman murdered in Philadelphia this year, after London Chanel was murdered there back in May. Another Black trans woman, Mya Hall, was killed by NSA security in March when she drove her car into a wrong turn at the NSA Headquarters.
Back in August, when Ashton O’Hara become the 14th reported trans woman murdered this year, I said that I had lost hope. I said that “we’ve already seen two more murders this year than all of last year and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.” Now that we’ve seen six more trans women murdered, it looks like my hopelessness and fear were founded. It needs to be pointed out that the vast majority of trans people who are murdered are Black and/or Latinx. It’s also important to note that many murdered trans women are killed because of intimate partner violence or reactions from men who find out that they were trans. Those are the people who are being targeted right now, and those are the people we need to step up and protect.
It should go without saying that trans women of color, and specifically the Black trans women who get the worst of this, deserve to be treated as human beings and deserve to live long and happy lives. If you want to take action, here are some lists of actions you can take to help trans women of color. Additionally, if you live in or near Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Trans March is taking place this weekend on October 10th. My heart broke when I learned of Jenkins’ murder, just like it has each time I’ve learned of the murder of a trans woman, and my heart broke again when I realized that this is almost definitely not going to be the last time I’ll have to write an article like this this year.
(ed. note: While initial reports spelled Jenkins’ first name “Kiesha,” sources from her family spelled it “Keisha” so the article has changed to acknowledge that.)