Third trans woman murdered in a week as ‘epidemic of anti-LGBT+ violence’ worsens in Puerto Rico

transgender murdered

LGBT+ advocates are mourning three trans women who were tragically murdered within a single week in Puerto Rico.

The bodies of Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, and Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, were found together in a charred car on April 21.

Their deaths were preceded by Penélope Díaz Ramírez, 31, who was killed in a correctional centre on April 13. Her death was not reported until April 27.

It marks the ninth violent death of a transgender person in the US this year, and comes as Puerto Rican activists desperately warn: “They are hunting us.

“There is no longer any doubt, this is an epidemic of anti-LGBT+ violence,” said Pedro Julio Serrano of Coalition for the Search for Equity (CABE), a Puerto Rican LGBT+ group.

“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.”

Tori Cooper, director of the Human Rights Campaign‘s transgender justice initiative, agreed that the problem is escalating.

Puerto Rico trans women murdered

Layla Pelaez Sánchez (L) and Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos (R), two trans women murdered in Puerto Rico (Human Rights Campaign)

“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,” she said after the latest murder.

“Penélope did not deserve to die. 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.”

She continued: “Transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially women of colour, are too often the victims of a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny.

“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.”