Young Black woman is 31st trans person to be violently killed in US in 2021. It’s only July

Taya Ashton, a 20-year-old Black woman, poses for the camera

Taya Ashton, a 20-year-old Black woman, was shot to death Saturday (17 July) in Maryland, US, in the latest transphobic killing that has left activists alarmed.

Slain in her Suitland-Silver Hill apartment in Prince George’s County, Ashton was found by law enforcement suffering from a gunshot wound.

Ashton, the granddaughter of community activist Stuart Anderson, was pronounced dead in the 2300 block of Brooks Drive at around 10PM, the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Homicide Unit said in a statement.

Investigators said that while they do not believe her killing was random, they currently have “no evidence suggesting Taya’s murder was due to her gender identity”.

“But as in all cases, we explore all possibilities,” they added.

Loved ones and community leaders are to hold a vigil 4PM Wednesday at River Terrace Park, where they will release purple balloons in her honour.

Shooting of Taya Ashton is ‘disheartening’, says activist

For LGBT+ advocates, Ashton’s tragic killing is the latest to stun a nation increasingly numb to transphobic violence – even as president Joe Biden steps up to better protect them.

She is at least the 31st trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming person to have been killed in the US this year alone, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Already mourned this year by the trans community are Tyianna AlexandraSamuel Edmund Damián ValentínBianca BankzDominique JacksonFifty BandzAlexus BraxtonChyna CarrilloJeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright, Jasmine Cannady, Jenna Franks, Diamond ‘Kyree’ SandersRayanna PardoDominique LuciousJaida PetersonRemy FennellTiara BanksNatalia Smüt, Iris SantosTiffany ThomasJahaira DeAlto BalenciagaKeri WashingtonSophie Vásquez, Danny HensonWhispering Bear Spirit, Serenity HollisOliver ‘Ollie’ TaylorThomas Hardin, Poe BlackNovaa Watson and Aidelen Evans.

The full death toll is impossible to determine, the group has long warned, with this year already projected to top last year’s record-breaking tally of 44 slain.

The dizzying rate of violence has hit such years-long heights that the American Medical Association has dubbed it an “epidemic of violence“.

“Taya was just at the beginning of her life,” Lindsey Clark, HRC associate director of the Transgender Justice Initiative, told PinkNews.

“A life that she deserved to live to its fullest. Black transgender women continue to be killed in this country, and this violence is unacceptable.

“Everyone, from friends and family to community organisers and allies, needs to speak out with urgency. We must end the stigma and violence that all transgender and gender non-conforming people face.”

“At just 20 years young, Taya Ashton was just beginning her life,” said David Johns, director for the National Black Justice Coalition, in a statement.

“It is disheartening to see the life of another Black transgender woman stolen from us too early and without any reasonable explanation.”

Her death was seen by Johns as an indictment of a county that refuses to tackle transphobia and the hazards it brings, such as increased levels of homelessness and poverty.

Instead, he said, decision-makers are embracing it.

Across state legislatures, Republican lawmakers are barrelling bills to block trans people from using public bathroomsplaying sports or limiting their healthcare – such policies, Johns said, are outgrowths of the same prejudice.

“Not enough has been done to address the epidemic of violence facing the transgender community,” he said.

“In fact, there have been more policy attacks and physical incidents of violence in recent months.”

“We must also fight to eliminate the transphobia that is too often tolerated or used as an excuse for bias, stigma, and hate crimes,” he added.

“Each of us has to answer the call to ensure our trans siblings can live in a world without fear of being a victim of this epidemic.

“The question is what are we going to do?”