Authorities have officially identified two more transgender women as victims of homicide in what has already become the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.
On December 4, Nikai David, a Black transgender woman, was shot to death on Castro Street in Oakland, California. She had celebrated her 33rd birthday the previous Saturday.
In an interview with local news affiliate KTVU, Ashlee Banks, a friend of David, described her as “really sweet … a happy, fun person” who had dreams of one day opening her own clothing boutique.
“To the people that harmed her, I just hope justice is served,” she said.
David is the 129th known homicide in Oakland this year, KTVU reports, and the 50th known transgender or gender nonconforming individual killed so far in 2021.
“Learning about Nikai David’s death is disheartening and alarming,” said Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Director of Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement released on the organization’s website. “David was a young person with so much life ahead of her. For her future to have been violently taken away from her serves as a reminder that we remain with so much work ahead of us to ensure a safe and loving world for all.”
Last week, the Human Rights Campaign also confirmed the death of Cris Blehar, a white transgender woman and U.S. Air Force veteran who had been found shot and stabbed in her rural Kentucky home earlier this year. A suspect has been arrested in connection to the murder, and will stand trial next year.
In a statement to the HRC, Blehar’s cousin, Mark Stephens, said, “If there is one thing to know about Cris, it was that she fought fiercely to define her life as SHE wanted,” adding, “She lived life to the fullest and wanted everyone around her to live their best life as well. Growing up ‘different’ in Kentucky is certainly no easy task, something we shared in addition to being cousins, and she tackled it with the passion and zeal that only she could have.”
More known transgender and gender nonconforming individuals have been victims of violent deaths in 2021 than in any previous year since the HRC began keeping records. The HRC reports that the number may actually be higher, as many victims might not be identified by their chosen names or gender identities.