Chanel Scurlock Is The Ninth Black Trans Woman Killed This Year

by Seth Millstein
Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Black trans women face high levels of violence in America and abroad, and this year has seen an especially startling trend. Chanel Scurlock is the ninth black trans woman killed this year in the U.S., the Advocate reported, and the fifth to be murdered in the last month alone.

Police found Scurlock's body in a field in Lumberton, North Carolina, shortly after midnight Wednesday, the Advocate reports. She had suffered fatal gunshot wounds.

The circumstances leading to Scurlock's murder are fuzzy. Scurlock's mother Brenda told WRAL that there had been a Facebook page featuring images and videos of Scurlock in women's clothes, and that Scurlock had left Tuesday night to meet with a person who had taken down that Facebook page. It's unclear who this person is, what the nature of the Facebook page was, why it was taken down, and why Scurlock was meeting with them. Nevertheless, Brenda told WRAL that she saw it as a "red flag" that this person took down the Facebook page.

As of this writing, nine black transgender women have been murdered in the United States since the beginning of 2019, according to the Advocate. The nine are Dana Martin, Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, Claire Legato, Muhlaysia Booker, Tamika Washington, Cynal Lindsey, Paris Cameron, and Scurlock. The latter five were killed in one 30-day span.

Trans women of all races face disproportionately high levels of violence: According to the Human Rights Campaign, trans women are 4.3 times more likely to be murdered than their cis counterparts. Murders of trans people often don't end in an arrest; since 2014, only 42% of cases involving trans murder victims resulted in an arrest, compared with 61% of cases involving murder across the general public, according to FBI data culled by Vice News.

Black trans women in particular are at an even higher risk. In every year that the Advocate has tracked, the majority of trans murder victims were women of color. This doesn't match up with the general demographics of trans people, as a 2016 study by UCLA's Williams Institute found that the majority of people who identify as trans are white.

“[Black trans women] understand that because of who they are, they might die before their parents," Carmarion Anderson, executive director of Black Transwomen Inc., told Vice News. "That’s the reality of being black and trans in America. The fear is part of the everyday existence for these folks.”

Compounding matters is the fact that news agencies often misgender or deadname trans murder victims, as was the case with local reports on Scurlock's murder. This sometimes happens in police reports as well; in addition to being disrespectful, many activists say that this results in an underreporting of trans murder rates.

Robeson County Sheriff Burnis Wilkins said that his office's detectives "are currently working diligently to bring closure to a grieving family,” according to The Robesonian.

"This cowardly act has to be addressed and a person or persons will be held accountable and brought to justice," Wilkins said.