Basic Rights Oregon is deeply saddened over the death of Jessi Hart, a white 42-year-old transgender woman killed in Banks, Oregon. Police found Jessi’s body on Oct. 17, in the woods outside Banks, a small town about 25 miles west of Portland, Oregon.

Detectives suspect foul play in her death and believe she had died about two weeks before authorities found her body. Hart’s death is at least the 43rd violent killing of a transgender or gender-diverse person in 2021. We say “at least” because too often, these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office asks that anyone who had contact with her in the past few months come forward to speak with investigators.

Last year, at least 44 transgender people lost their lives to violence in the United States, most of whom were transgender women of color. Among the 44 U.S. deaths in 2020 was Portland resident Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears. More than 350 trans and non-binary people have been killed worldwide, the large majority of whom were trans women and transfeminine people.

In Oregon, transgender and gender nonconforming people are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Our state also includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in hate crimes law. Earlier this year, we passed the LGBTQ Panic Defense Ban into law.

We are in the middle of an epidemic. The number of homicides against trans and nonconforming people continues to grow each year. In addition to high murder rates, trans and gender-diverse face higher rates of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness, which can put trans people at risk for greater violence.

“Take the time to say Jessi Hart out loud today. Send light and love to the loved ones who are mourning her death. Stand in solidarity with the trans and gender diverse folks working to change the realities that put transgender people at risk of violence. We must all collectively address and dismantle the challenges transgender people face. Until we do, transgender people will continue to face higher rates of discrimination, poverty, homelessness and violence.” — Nancy Haque, Executive Director