The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has learned of the latest in a string of anti-LGBTQ homicides in Puerto Rico, bringing the total known anti-LGBTQ homicides to 30 in the past 10 years. Transexuales y Transgeneros en Marcha (TTM), a transgender advocacy organization in Puerto Rico, reported that Malena Suarez, a transgender woman in Carolina, Puerto Rico, was discovered dead in her home as a result of multiple stab wounds in her back, according to authorities. It is unclear how long Suarez had been dead before she was found. According to TTM, Suarez was a volunteer with TTM prior to her death and friends of Suarez hadn't heard from her in a number of days before she was found. TTM members believe that Suarez was killed because she was transgender. Local media reports have not acknowledged Suarez's transgender identity, continuing a trend of inaccurate media reports of transgender victims of violence in Puerto Rico.
Suarez' homicide follows a series of unsolved homicides of LGBTQ people, particularly transgender people, in Puerto Rico. "Hate violence is not only deadly, but it affects the entire community," said Sophia Isabel Marrero Cruz, a spokesperson for TTM. "The transgender community in Puerto Rico is extremely terrorized by this violence, we fear for our lives, and our government is not taking action to protect us."
In 2010 NYC AVP joined a coalition of organizations in NY to release a joint report on hate violence in Puerto Rico, documenting 20 anti-LGBTQ homicide victims of hate violence since 2002. Since that report, 10 more homicides have been reported.
Many of these homicides remain unsolved, and Puerto Rico authorities have not yet classified any of the homicides as hate crimes under local law or the Matthew Shepard James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Law.
Severe and deadly violence against transgender women is also a pervasive problem in the contiguous United States. NCAVP has documented 11 murders of transgender women in the United States so far in 2012. In NCAVP's most recent report, Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2011, transgender women made up 40% of the 30 reported hate murders in 2011, while representing only 10% of total hate violence survivors and victims. Of the 30 reported homicide victims in 2011, 87% were LGBTQH people of color.
NCAVP has reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigations within the Department of Justice to urge the investigation of the Suarez homicide and other homicides, and is working with the Latino Commission on AIDS, Lambda Legal, Citizen Alliance for LGBTTA Health, and the Network for LGBT Health and Equity at the Fenway Institute to support local response efforts in Puerto Rico. NCAVP will continue to monitor this homicide and provide support to TTM during this critical time.
NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected (LGBTQH) communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs, affiliate organizations and individuals who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.