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Transgender Deaths on the Rise

SLC rally draws attention to escalating number of transgender murders in U.S.


Shortly after 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3, the sidewalk in front of the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake City echoed to a roll call of names of the dead.

"Tamara Dominguez."

"Say her name," the crowd responded. 

"India Clarke."

"Say her name." 

"Taja Gabrielle DeJesus."

"Say her name."  

The roll call, which has taken place in numerous American cities, was to mark the murder of at least 20 transgender women in the United States this year, the majority of them people of color.

That statistic comes from an article on by Jorge Rivas, which nevertheless acknowledged that as of now "no one has an accurate count of how many transgender people have been murdered this year. But concerned advocates say they have an epidemic on their hands—one that appears to be getting worse, and disproportionately affecting women of color." 

The rally was co-organized by the 8-month-old Utah's Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, which advocates for the rights of the undocumented, people of color and trans members of the LGBT community, and Stand for Queer Lives, a SLC-based activist group which, according to its Facebook page, supports "LGBTQ people, primarily youth who are the most vulnerable, in the aftermath of the growing problem of LGBTQ suicides."

Rally speakers highlighted not only an unprecedented number of murders of trans women across the United States but also acts of violence against members of Utah LGBT community.


"Their deaths affect all of us," transgender woman Sara Jade Woodhouse, a member of Mormons Building Bridges, told the 70-strong crowd. 

Adrian Romero, founder of Stand for Queer Lives, told the crowd that the "act of loving oneself is a powerful act. Let's work to give full voice to our people living on the margins of this society." 

Romero chanted, "When our trans sisters are under attack, what do we do?"

The crowd shouted back, "Stand up, fight back." 

Utah's Familia founder Ella Mendoza declared herself as undocumented and called to an end of the invisibility of
marginalized people. "Will you stop fucking killing me?" she demanded. 


She noted that a recent protest in support of Planned Parenthood saw several thousand people attend. "Why aren't you here?" she wanted to know. 

"We are living in a state of emergency," she said, referencing how transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox had described the killing of four transgender women in 24 hours in August 2015. As far as American society is concerned, "If you are different, you do not matter." 

While protesters held up signs that read "Trans is beautiful," to passing drivers, Mendoza paused to note that even as she read out the names of those transgender women who had been murdered this year, she had not been unable to gather all their names. Each name is important, she said, "because in our culture we have already decided to forget them."

The protesters set off to march to the city and county building opposite the Scott Matheson court house on State Street, activist Kate Kelly among their ranks.

As they chanted, "Out of the shadows, into the light," bemused construction workers watched in silence, one commenting afterwards that it had been a "transvestite rally."