HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Riah Milton, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman killed in Liberty Township, Ohio, on June 9. Her death is believed to be the at least 14th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S. As we mourn this death, HRC has also learned of a second death of a Black transgender woman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dominique “Rem'mie” Fells, also killed on June 9.
According to her Facebook, Milton worked as a home health aide and studied at the University of Cincinnati. She was a loving sister and aunt, often posting photos of her family. In March, she posted the status “Never been scared to struggle�� Imma get it eventually” -- a comment highlighting her resilience and optimism as a person facing a transphobic, misogynist and racist society. According to local authorities, Kaleb Marshall Tooson, 18, and an unnamed 14-year-old girl were arrested in connection to Milton’s death. One suspect, Tyree Jeffery Cross, 25, remains at large.
“Black Trans Lives Matter,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “In the same week countless people across the globe stand up for racial injustice, in the same week we honor the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, in the same week a billionaire author spouts transphobic rhetoric to millions -- in this same week, we have lost two more Black transgender women to the same fate most of us worry about every day. Say their names. Dominique “Rem'mie” Fells. Dominique “Rem'mie” Fells. Dominique “Rem'mie” Fells. Riah Milton. Riah Milton. Riah Milton. Continue to say the names of every transgender and gender non-conforming person stolen from this Earth. Don't wait until we are all gone to speak up. This fight belongs to us all.”
In November 2019, ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, HRC Foundation released “A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2019,” a heartbreaking report honoring the trans people killed and detailing the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence -- a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny. Sadly, 2019 saw at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported -- or misreported.
There are currently very few explicit federal legal protections for transgender or gender-expansive people. At the state level, transgender and gender non-conforming people in Ohio are not explicitly protected in employment, housing or in public spaces. They are also not covered under the state’s hate crimes legislation. Nationally, despite some marginal gains in state and local policies that support and affirm transgender people, recent 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 appearing at the local, state and federal levels because 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 hrc.org/Transgender.