A trans woman was found shot and killed at a hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina, the second violent death of a trans woman in the city in as many weeks.
The woman’s name has not been released because her family hasn’t been notified, but police said she was found early Thursday morning at a Sleep Inn hotel in the city’s University City neighborhood, according to the Charlotte Observer. Her death follows that of another trans woman, 29-year-old Jaida Peterson, who was also found dead in a hotel room, on April 4. Peterson had also been shot.
Police “identified some pretty consistent similarities” in the two murders, saying the two women were both sex workers, according to Rob Tufano, a spokesperson with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. People attending a vigil for Peterson last week told the Charlotte Observer that they knew Peterson had engaged in sex work but didn’t think that’s why she had been targeted.
Tufano said Thursday that police hadn’t confirmed whether the two murders were related. CMPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News.
At least 44 transgender and gender non-conforming people were murdered in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the highest number since the LGBTQ rights group began tracking murders of trans people in 2013. This year is already on track to be even deadlier; Peterson was at least the 14th transgender or gender non-conforming person killed in 2021, making the woman who died Thursday at least the 15th person killed. (The true number of trans people murdered is unknown because deaths often go unreported or misreported, according to the HRC.)
Charlotte Uprising, a community justice group formed after the 2016 police killing of Keith Scott, a Black man, said on Twitter Thursday that they were working with other local groups to collect funds to house vulnerable trans people, adding that “hotels are not safe at this time.”
Charlotte police said Thursday that trans sex workers in the city should be “hyper cautious.”
“They have to know there has arguably never been a more vulnerable time for them than tonight,” Tufano said.
But trans people, and particularly trans people of color, are much more likely to face employment and housing discrimination and be more economically vulnerable than the general population.
The unemployment rate among trans people in 2015, the time of the last U.S. Transgender Survey, was 15 percent—three times higher than the national unemployment rate at the time. Nearly one in three trans people at the time were living in poverty. (The 2020 U.S. Transgender Survey has been delayed due to the pandemic, and organizational issues at the National Center for Transgender Equality, The 19th news organization reported last year.)
North Carolina has been a battleground over transgender rights for the past five years, after the Republican-controlled state Legislature passed the anti-trans, anti-worker HB 2 legislation in 2016, which banned local nondiscrimination ordinances and minimum wage laws, and perhaps most controversially, mandated that school and other public bathrooms be restricted to people with the corresponding gender on their birth certificate. That law came shortly after the City of Charlotte passed a non-discrimination ordinance.
HB 2 was repealed in 2017, and replaced by HB 142, which banned cities from passing non-discrimination ordinances until the end of 2020.
Earlier this month, as part of a wave of anti-trans legislation around the country, Republican lawmakers in North Carolina introduced another bill which would not only ban gender-affirming surgery for people under the age of 21 but also force state employees to tell parents if their child displays “symptoms of gender dysphoria, gender nonconformity, or otherwise demonstrates a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with the minor’s sex.”