Trans woman becomes 2023’s first victim of anti-trans violence. Her name was Jasmine ‘Star’ Mack

candlelight vigil

A transgender woman has been violently killed in Washington DC, becoming the first person in the United States to fall victim to anti-trans violence this year. 

Jasmine Mack, who went by the name of “Star”, died on 7 January aged 36 following a stab wound to her leg in the 2000 block of Gallaudet Street NE. 

No arrests have yet been made and trans activists believe she was the first trans person in the US to be murdered in 2023.

Her sister, Pamela Witherspoon, recalled Star as “boisterous”, “a little wild” and “a talented singer” who enjoyed gospel songs and “knew how to tailor old clothes into outfits that suited her statuesque frame”.

At 6-foot-5 Witherspoon said her sister wanted to be known, “but not like this”. 

Witherspoon, who is nearly 20 years older than Star, said her sister had been trans since childhood.

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Despite her family accepting her being trans from a young age, Star faced hardship in her adulthood. Witherspoon told the The Washington Post her sister had struggled with addiction to crack cocaine and other drugs. 

Coupled with the discrimination she faced as a trans woman, her addiction resulted in her being unable to maintain stable housing. 

‘She just wanted a chance at life’

Nonprofit groups helped Star find intermittent housing, but the apartments tended to be in neighbourhoods where drugs were prevalent. 

Witherspoon said her sister endured relentless abuse and bullying, she said: “People treated her so bad because of who she was.” 

“She’d been stabbed before. She’d been shot because of her sexuality. She was abused. People rejected her. She just wanted to be herself. She was a sweet person. She was not mean. She just wanted a chance at life.”

Charmaine Eccles, a trans woman who served as a mentor to Mack, said violence is an ever-present threat for trans people in DC. 

She said: “Every day when I leave my house and walk around, my reality is that I don’t know if I will make it home because I’m trans.

“Because of someone’s ignorance, they might just go off on me and decide to pull a trigger or stab me up just because of who I am.

“That is a reality that we have to suck up and walk around with every day of our lives.” 

A protester holds a placard with the colours of the transgender flag saying trans rights are human rights
Many trans people in the US are looking to flee the country, (SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images/Vuk Valcic)

Witherspoon hopes her sister’s death reminds others to treat trans people with care.

“Give them a chance,” Witherspoon said. “They’re human, too. The only thing they want to be is accepted, that’s all.”

Lives ‘unjustly cut shot’

Cleo Madeleine, communications officer with trans charity Gendered Intelligence, told PinkNews they are “saddened” by Mack’s death.

“Her murder is a reminder that trans lives, and particularly black trans lives, are under increasing threat as a wave of anti-trans legislation continues to sweep the US.

“Anti-trans legislators – and the media that enables them – spread misinformation and influence public attitudes, fuelling hate towards trans people,” Madeleine said.

She added that in the UK the same hate occurs, with anti-trans crime having risen by “as much as 500 per cent following years of media demonisation and government failure”.

“We fear that violence is not an unexpected consequence but an intentional outcome of these relentless campaigns against us.  

“We mourn Jasmine and all the other lives in our community that were unjustly cut short, and we reaffirm our commitment to remembering those we have lost as we strive for a better future together,” Madeleine added.

A candlelight vigil, held in Star’s memory, will take place at the crime scene at 3.30pm on Monday (16 January). 

Report uncovers hundreds of trans killings

A report released ahead of Trans Day of Remembrance (20 November) 2022 revealed that between 1 October, 2021 and 30 September, 2022 at least 327 trans and gender-diverse people have been killed around the world just for being themselves.  

Globally, 27 per cent of victims died in their own homes, with 35 per cent of killings happening in the street.

Most (95 per cent) reported victims were trans women or femmes. A majority of victims (65 per cent) were people of colour, and almost half (48 per cent) were known to be sex workers.

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