Another transgender woman fatally shot in Puerto Rico – the 6th killing of a trans person this year in the U.S. territory

From The New York Daily News:

Human rights activists are mourning the loss of another transgender woman in Puerto Rico.

The body of 33-year-old Michelle Ramos Vargas was found Wednesday morning alongside an isolated road near a farm in the southwest town of San German, according to The Associated Press.

Local newspaper Noticel reported that police haven’t ruled out her killing as a hate crime.

Police officer Manuel Cruz told the AP that the victim was shot several times in the head. She apparently worked as a bartender and was studying to become a nurse.

Human rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano condemned the killing and denounced the negligence and inaction of the local government on violence against the island’s LGBTQ community.

“They are violating us, they are hunting us and they are murdering us while [Puerto Rico governor] Wanda Vázquez and her government chooses to look away,” Serrano said in a statement, noting that there have been six transgender people murdered in Puerto Rico this year.

“Enough of so much hatred. Trans people are as human beings as others and they deserve to live in peace, equity and freedom,” he added.

Earlier this year, the bodies of Layla Peláez, 21, and Serena Angelique Velázquez, 32, were found inside a charred Hyundai Elantra on April 22 in the city of Humacao, on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast.

Their deaths came just days after 31-year-old Penélope Díaz Ramírez, was killed at the Bayamon correctional complex.

On Feb. 24, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, another trans woman, was fatally shot in Toa Baja, in northern Puerto Rico. About a week later, Yampi Méndez Arocho, a transgender man, was killed after being assaulted in Moca, some 50 miles east of Toa Baja.

“There is no plan to stop these hate crimes, a state of emergency for gender violence has not been issued, there is nothing,” Serrano tweeted.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there have been at least 29 violent deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. this year — nearly all of them are trans women of color.

Ramos became the 30th known transgender person to be murdered in the U.S. in 2020.


From HRC:

by Madeleine Roberts
October 2, 2020

HRC lamenta la pérdida de Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, identificada como Michelle Ramos Vargas o Michellyn Ramos Vargas, una mujer transgénero asesinada en San Germán, Puerto Rico, de acuerdo con algunos informes.

Vargas fue encontrada muerta por múltiples heridas de bala en la madrugada del 30 de septiembre. Se cree que su muerte corresponde al a la numerosa e inexacta lista de asesinatos violentos de personas transgénero o de género no conforme en lo que va del año en los EE.UU. Decimos “inexacta” porque con frecuencia estas muertes no son reportadas o lo son de manera errónea. El número de muertes de personas transgéneros o de género no conforme, de acuerdo con el registro de HRC durante todo este año, ha superado el número total de asesinatos del registro de 2019.

“Por lo menos tres mujeres transgénero fueron asesinadas en menos de dos semanas. Este nivel de violencia o cualquier nivel de violencia, es inaceptable,” dijo Tori Cooper, directora de Participación Comunitaria y la Iniciativa de Justicia Transgénero de HRC. “El racismo, la transfobia y misoginia desempeñan un papel clave en las muertes de personas transgénero y de género no conforme, en particular a mujeres transgénero de color. Mientras lamentamos la muerte de Michelle, debemos tomar iniciativa contra la violencia hacia la comunidad transgénero. Una de las acciones que debemos tomar es colaborar con legisladores para establecer y asegurar las políticas que protegen los derechos de las personas transgénero. Debemos trabajar juntos para apoyar a nuestro familiares y comunidad transgénero”.

Vargas, de más de treinta años aproximadamente, estaba estudiando enfermería en Ponce Paramedical College.

En 2020, seis de las 30 muertes de personas transgénero y de género no conforme ocurrieron en Puerto Rico. A principios de este año, otras cinco personas transgénero: Neulisa Lucian Ruiz (también conocida como Alexa), Yampi Méndez Arocho, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Layla Pelaez Sánchez y Penélope Díaz Ramírez fueron asesinadas en la isla.

Más de 10,000 crímenes de odio en los EE. UU. involucran un arma de fuego cada año, lo que equivale a más de 28 por día, según un informe de HRC, Everyone for Gun Safety Support Fund, Giffords Law Center e Equality Florida titulado “Recordando y honrando Pulse: Los prejuicios anti-LGBTQ y las armas están acabando con la vida de innumerables personas LGBTQ”. El informe también señala un marcado aumento en los delitos de odio contra las personas LGBTQ, especialmente contra personas trangénero. Tres cuartas partes de los homicidios de las personas transgénero han involucrado un arma, y casí ocho de cada 10 homicidios de mujeres transgénero negras involucran un arma. Además, los defensores de derechos vieron un aumento del 43% en la formación de grupos de odio anti-LGBTQ en 2019.

Debemos exigir el bienestar de esta comuniad a nuestros funcionarios electos y rechazar la legislación anti-transgénero dañina a nivel local, estatal y federal. Este tipo de violencia mortal afecta de manera desproporcionada a las mujeres transgénero de color. El conjunto interseccional de racismo, transfobia, sexismo, bifobia y homofobia conspiran para privarlas de condiciones básicas para vivir y prosperar.

Esta epidemia de violencia dirigida desproporcionadamente a personas transgénero de color, en particular las mujeres transgénero negras, debe cesar.

Para obtener más información sobre el trabajo de justicia transgénero de HRC, visite

HRC Mourns Aerrion Burnett, Black Trans Woman Killed in Missouri

From HRC:

By  Madeleine Roberts

The Human Rights Campaign is horrified to learn of the death of Aerrion Burnett, 37, in Independence, Missouri. Burnett, who was from Kansas City, was found dead of a gunshot wound early on September 19. Her death is believed to be at least the 28th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported. The number of transgender or gender non-conforming people whom HRC has tracked as being killed so far this year has now surpassed the total number of deaths that HRC tracked in all of 2019.

“Black transgender women are being killed at horrifying rates in this country,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper. “The number of violent deaths of trans and gender non-conforming people that HRC has tracked this year has now surpassed the number we saw for all of last year. This level of violence is staggering, and it cannot continue. We need everyone — from community organizers to those in the highest levels of our government — to take action to end this epidemic of violence. I and everyone in the trans community are mourning Aerrion’s death. As we remember her, we continue to call for justice for all trans and gender non-conforming people.”

Burnett’s family and friends held a vigil the day after her death, releasing balloons in her honor and sharing memories of her.

“She was a goddess,” said her friend Korea Kelly. “If you wanted to have a good day, you need to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.” Another friend remembered her as the “life of the party.”

Members of Burnett’s family also called for justice.

“Enough is enough,” said a cousin of Burnett’s. “Stop taking our lives. Lives matter. You can’t get them back, and it hurts so many people.”

In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Burnett has been misgendered and misnamed in the media following her death. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement and elected offices. According to HRC research, it is estimated that approximately three-quarters of all known victims were misgendered by the media or by law enforcement. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people.

More than 10,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to more than 28 each day, according to a report from HRC, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Giffords Law Center and Equality Florida titled “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns Are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. Three-fourths of homicides against transgender people have involved a gun, and nearly eight in 10 homicides of Black trans women involve a gun. Further, advocates saw a 43% increase in the formation of anti-LGBTQ hate groups in 2019.

The Independence Police Department, which is currently investigating Burnett’s killing as a homicide, asks anyone with information about this case to contact the Tips Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS, IPD tips at (816) 325-7777 or email

At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Missouri are not explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces, although Missouri does include gender identity as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law. Nationally, despite some marginal gains that support and affirm transgender people, the past few years have been marked by anti-LGBTQ attacks at all levels of government.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.

This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color — particularly Black transgender women — must cease.

For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit

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