Local and national LGBT advocacy organizations have expressed alarm and outrage that the murder of 22-year-old transgender woman Keyonna Blakeney at a hotel room in Rockville, Md., on April 16 was the ninth murder of a transgender or gender non-conforming person to take place in the U.S. so far in 2016.
Montgomery County police said Blakeney was found dead in her room at Rockville’s Red Roof Inn by hotel employees and had suffered trauma to her upper body.
“Investigators believe that Keyonna was assaulted and killed in her hotel room in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 16,” a police statement says.
Officer Rick Goodale, a Montgomery County police spokesperson, told the Washington Blade on Wednesday that police have yet to determine a motive for the murder but “detectives are working day and night” to identify and arrest a suspect responsible for the murder.
A coalition of trans advocacy groups announced they will host a vigil to honor Blakeney’s life at 6 p.m. Friday, April 22, at the Montgomery County City Council at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. Further information about the event can be obtained by contacting trans activist Ruby Corado at 202-355-5155.
According to the New York-based National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which monitors anti-LGBT violence, at least 22 transgender or gender non-conforming people were murdered in the U.S. in 2015. Of those 22, 19 were transgender or gender non-conforming women of color, NCAVP said.
“The epidemic of violence against trans people continues unabated, and we fear could only increase given the vicious attacks on trans people nationwide by anti-trans politicians and organizations,” said Corado, who serves as executive director of the D.C. LGBT community services center Casa Ruby.
Corado was referring to the growing number of so-called “bathroom bills” being enacted by state legislatures across the country at the behest of lawmakers who claim trans people would be a threat to the public if they use public bathrooms conforming to the gender to which they identify.
One such bill passed in North Carolina earlier this year, which drew national media attention, repealed an LGBT non-discrimination law approved by the city of Charlotte and prohibits other cities and counties in the state from enacting LGBT non-discrimination laws.
Although mainline civil rights organizations have joined LGBT advocates in denouncing the anti-trans legislation, transgender rights advocates have expressed concern that the negative publicity toward trans people generated by the legislation will result in more violence against the trans community.
“We all must take a stand to hold the police, public officials and the media accountable and do their jobs investigating and reporting this murder and others,” Corado said in a statement. “We will continue to advocate for greater protections and resources for our trans family,” Corado said.
The groups scheduled to participate in Friday’s vigil were Casa Ruby and the D.C.-based Trans Women of Color; Trans United Fund, a recently formed political advocacy organization; and the Baltimore Transgender Alliance.
“Trans and gender non-conforming people are under siege,” said Lourdes Hunter, Casa Ruby’s chief operating officer. “The heinous violence we are seeing is inextricably linked to the lack of access to resources, jobs, education and housing that places many in our community in precarious environments.”
The statement released by Montgomery County police on Monday said detectives have obtained information indicating that Blakeney “may have been engaging in prostitution at the Red Roof Inn” at the time of the murder.