Nikki Kunhausen. Aja Raquel Rhone-Spears. Jessi Hart.
Nikki, Aja and Jessi are three transgender women who lost their lives to violence. In 2019, 17-year-old Nikki was strangled in Vancouver, Washington. In 2020, Aja was stabbed in Portland, Oregon. Last month, Jessi was found dead in Banks, Oregon.
Nikki, Aja and Jessi are three of the reported 117 trans and gender-diverse people that lost their lives to violence during the last three years. So far in 2021, at least 46 transgender people have lost their lives to violence in the United States, making this the deadliest year for fatal violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people on record. Many of these deaths go unreported or misreported. The majority of these crimes are committed against trans women of color.
Nikki, Aja, and Jessi are three of the names that will weigh heavy on the minds of trans folks and our allies this Saturday as we observe Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Every year on November 20th, people around the globe memorialize trans and gender-diverse people. We celebrate the lives of our trans siblings and grieve their deaths. We reflect and recalibrate to stop the ongoing violence targeting BIPOC, trans and gender non-conforming people.
According to the Williams Institute, trans people are over four times more likely than cis people to experience violent crimes, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault.
It’s not only physical violence we are facing. In 2021, more anti-trans legislation has been introduced in state legislatures this year than any other year in history, while conservative school boards are stripping BIPOC and trans students of constitutional rights.
Violence against trans people has always been an issue – now it’s a crisis.
Make space to grieve during Transgender Day of Remembrance. Lift the names of those that are no longer with us into the sky. Reach out to the trans people in your life. If you can, hold each other’s hands.
Nikki Kunhausen, Aja Raquel Rhone-Spears, and Jessi Hart may be gone, but they are not forgotten.