Black transgender women were shot to death in Georgia and Mississippi in January, meaning that at least four trans Americans have died by violence in the first month of the year.
Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, 30, was fatally shot in her apartment in Atlanta January 17, but media reports of her death have come out in just the past few days. Police believe her killer was a man named Moses Allen, who then took his own life, Project Q Atlanta reports.
Their bodies were discovered by Bankz’s roommate, with whom she had often lived on the streets. Bankz had moved into the apartment just a few weeks before she died.
Police are continuing to investigate, but they say the incident is likely to remain classified as a murder-suicide. “[Investigators] are not looking for any outstanding people of interest in this case. This was not random and is not a threat to the public,” spokesperson TaSheena Brown told Project Q.
Bankz was a former foster child who was “just blossoming into herself,” Jesse Pratt López, founder and co-director of the Trans Housing Coalition, said at a memorial vigil last week, according to the publication. “Muffin hadn’t been in the apartment for … even a month, and we were helping her get a job. We actually had the job interview scheduled for her the day after she died,” López said.
Bankz, who acquired her nickname due to her love of blueberry muffins, hoped to one day compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race, friends said. Angel Karmarain recalled her as “sweet and kind.”
The Human Rights Campaign and the National Black Justice Coalition both issued statements on her death. “Muffin was truly loved by so many people in her short lifetime,” said Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative. “As Black trans women, we are in fear for our lives! Already this year, we’ve lost multiple trans and gender-nonconforming people to fatal violence, a majority of whom were Black transgender women. We need to do more — we need everyone in Atlanta and across the country to take action and show that Black Trans Lives Matter.”
“Bianca’s murder is indicative of the hate and disregard that so many people have for trans lives — hate that has been normalized,” said Sage Dolan-Sandrino, NBJC Monica Roberts Fellow. “It should be lost on no one that there is so much work that we need to do to address the many layers of transphobia that impact our community. Not only did Bankz’ attacker murder her, after entering her home, but he also chose to take his life. This trauma and tragedy that is disproportionately experienced in our community must end.”
Jackson, also 30, was found dead in her car January 25 in Jackson, Miss., after her aunt reported she had been missing for three days, according to NBJC. She had crashed her car into a utility pole after being shot. Police initially misgendered and deadnamed her, local TV station WLBT reports, but updated their records after the station passed on information it received from civil rights groups.
Jackson (not to be confused with the trans actress of the same name) was well known in her community as the mother of the Hause of Redd and founder of the Ladi Redd Inc.
“Dominique was a mother, a sister, a leader, and a necessity to our community,” Dolan-Sandrino said in a press release. “Although I never met Dominique, I am sure she was exactly who I needed when I was young and transitioning — a light source, an example of who I could become, proof that there was a future for me. Trans women have fought for everyone throughout history, yet we are still being murdered by the same people who we liberated. We give our lives in ways no one should ever be expected to, only to be met with constant hate, discrimination, violence, and disenfranchisement. Trans women deserve better. There is a war on our lives at hand and no one is sending soldiers to our aid.”
“Dominique’s life has been extinguished and her friends are devastated,” HRC State Director Rob Hill told WLBT. “Her family are devastated. And so many of Dominique’s friends are trans Black women who are fearing for their lives, even more so than they were before. But I do hope that this helps people to see that this is a real problem.”
“Dominique was an important and valued member of her community, where she will be greatly missed,” Cooper added in an HRC press release. HRC noted that both Bankz and Jackson were victims of gun violence and cited a report from Everytown for Gun Safety that found three-fourths of homicides against transgender people from 2017 through 2019 involved a gun, and nearly eight in 10 homicides of Black trans women in that period involved a gun.
Jackson police are investigating the possibility that Jackson’s death was an anti-trans hate crime but say they have no evidence of this so far. Mississippi’s hate-crimes law does not cover attacks motivated by the victim’s gender identity, but a suspect could be prosecuted under federal law, which does.
“It’s critical that law enforcement does everything that they can to be able to make sure that, that they have all of the aspects of a crime, especially if we suspect it is bias-motivated,” Hill told WLBT. “We still lack a lot of information around this case.”
“Dominique was a legitimate victim,” Candace Coleman of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Mississippi affiliate added in an interview with the station. “She was a legitimate victim on three different points, actually. She is first of all Black. She is a woman, and she’s transgender. She has three targets on her back.”
Last year was the deadliest year for trans and gender-nonconforming people in the U.S. since the media and activists have been keeping records, with at least 44 dying by violence. The actual number is likely higher, given that many are misgendered by police or media or their deaths not reported at all.
So far, 2021 has also seen the fatal shootings of Black trans woman Tyianna “Davarea” Alexander, 28, in Chicago, and white trans man Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.