Transgender woman Jenna Franks has been found dead in North Carolina, and police are investigating her death as a homicide, making her at least the 10th trans American known to have died by violence this year.
Franks’s body was found by a city work crew clearing an area near a bike trail in Jacksonville, N.C., February 24, TV station WITN reports. Her death was not initially classified as a homicide, but police last week announced they believe that to be the case, although they have not released details of how she died. Some local media have deadnamed Franks and have continued to do so even after LGBTQ+ activists spoke out.
Franks, who was homeless, “was loved by many people in Jacksonville,” Dennis Biancuzzo, director of the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center, told GLAAD. “She was also a transgender woman. I know these things because Jenna was a client of the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center. … But the first thing reported about her by local media was the one thing I never wanted to hear: the deadname she was assigned at birth.”
GLAAD, the community center, Equality North Carolina, and the Campaign for Southern Equality have all called on news organizations to revise their reporting and to “address the high rates of job and housing insecurity in the trans community, realities that put them at higher risk of threats to their emotional and physical well-being,” according to a GLAAD blog post.
The Human Rights Campaign also noted Franks’s death. “The fatal violence against transgender and non-binary people we’ve recorded so far this year has been devastating,” Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a press release. “Jenna had family, friends and a community who cared about her. Her life was taken far too soon. Homelessness is already high in trans communities, and is exacerbated by additional factors, such as the denial of job opportunities. These risk factors compound to create anti-trans stigma, which can often lead to violence. Everyone, from community organizers to those in government, needs to come together to implement lasting changes to support transgender and nonbinary people.”
The community center and Franks’s sister, Amber Franks, are raising funds for the Jenna Franks Interim Housing Project, which will provide transitional housing for people who have become homeless due to anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, or addiction or mental health issues. The goal is for the project to house six adults for up to 18 months while they receive job training and placement assistance, treatment if needed, and other services.
Anyone with information that might help police find Jenna Franks’s killer is asked to contact Det. Kymberly Schott at (910) 938-6414 or [email protected], or Crime Stoppers at (910) 938-3273. If calling Crime Stoppers, refer to Case 21-00540.