The transgender and gender non-conforming community in Puerto Rico is mourning the death of another murder victim — the third in just over one week.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 31-year-old Penélope Díaz Ramírez was killed April 13 at the Bayamon correctional complex. Her death, which was reported Monday, took place just eight days after two other women were found dead inside a charred Hyundai Elantra on April 21 in the city of Humacao.
“Never in my career have I seen so many reports of deaths of our transgender and gender non-conforming community in such a short time in one location,” Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the transgender justice initiative, said in a statement.
Five of the nine U.S. murders of transgender and gender non-conforming people in 2020 have occurred in Puerto Rico, which to local LGBTQ activist Pedro Julio Serrano, constitutes “without a doubt an epidemic” of anti-LGBTQ violence.
“The police have the obligation to disclose the status of the investigations of at least eight murders, one death without a determined cause and several attacks in which LGBTTIQ people have been injured since January 2019,” added Serrano, a spokesperson to the Coalition for the Search for Equity (CABE), an LGBTQ rights group on the island.
“Trans people deserve to live in peace, equality and freedom. Enough of so much hatred,” Ivana Fred, an activist with the group, told the La Perla del Sur newspaper.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially women of color, are too often the victims of a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny,” said Cooper.
“People and policy must work together to protect our lives and our well-being. HRC stands in solidarity with all who knew and loved Penélope, and we will continue our tireless fight to ensure a future where living one’s truth can never become a death sentence,” she added.
Even though Ramírez is the ninth recorded death in 2020, the actual number of fatalities could be higher, as victims can be misgendered in some reports, according to the HRC, which tracks anti-transgender violence in the U.S.
In 2019, the organization reported 26 violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the country. The ninth death last year was reported in June.
“Penélope did not deserve to die,” Cooper said. “Transgender people do not deserve to die. Every single advocate, ally, elected official and community member must stand up in light of this horrific news and say ‘No more.’ What we are doing is not enough.”
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