Police investigating deaths of two Black trans women in first two days of 2022

Headshots of Amarey Lej (L) and Duval Princess

A Black trans woman was shot dead on New Year’s Day, while a second was found dead in suspicious circumstances a day later.

Amariey Lej (spelled Amarey in some reports), a 20-year-old dancer and youth artist apprentice, was found with a fatal gunshot wound by police in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania in the early hours of 1 January.

Police responded to calls of a lifeless body lying in the street at around 6am. Lej was found at the 1300 block of Wood Street.

Local trans community support centre SisTers PGH confirmed Lej was a trans woman on 2 January. Initial local news reports misgendered her.

“Amarey Lej, also known as Myra, should be here right now,” the centre said in a statement. “Instead, we are grieving her loss.”

“Amariey Lej was a vibrant soul with a presence that filled every space she entered,” her loved ones wrote on a GoFundMe raising money for her funeral expenses.

“A dancer her entire life, she shared her passion and gift with her friends family and the youth of the Lady Diamonds dance squad.

“The injustice of this tragedy is unfathomable, reflecting the extreme rates of violence experienced by trans people of colour.”

The Lady Diamonds dance squad added in an Instagram post: “We would like to thank [Lej] for coming into our lives, we will forever miss you.”

On 2 January, a trans woman named by TransGriot as The Duval Princess died in Jacksonville, Florida.

According to the site, a Black trans-led news outlet that monitors violence against trans people, she was found on the floor of a parking lot. However, doctors reportedly noted her injuries were not in line with a traffic accident and detectives are now treating her death as suspicious.

These reports come after a year in which a record number of trans people were violently killed.

According to Human Rights Campaign, at least 51 trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people were killed in the US in 2021 – the majority Black, trans women.

HRC warns that its own count is likely inaccurate and that the true death toll is even higher, given that three-fourths of trans victims are misgendered and deadnamed by the police and press.

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The American Medical Association has warned of an “epidemic of violence” against trans Americans – a statement echoed by president Joe Biden.

Tori Cooper, who leads HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement: “Only a day into 2022 we are already discussing the importance of safety for all trans people in this country and the dire need for protective policy that ensures our well-being and prosperity.

“For all trans activists and allies, Amariey Lej’s death is a call to action and a reminder that we must continue to fight against racial injustice, transphobia, discrimination and all other forms of oppression and malice.”