As tributes poured in last weekend for Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old unarmed black man whose Feb. 23 killing made international headlines when cellphone footage of his death was released last week, racial and trans justice advocates sought space to lift up the name of Nina Pop, a 28-year-old trans woman who was found stabbed to death in Missouri earlier this month.
As The Advocate reports, police found Pop stabbed multiple times on May 3 in her apartment in Sikeston, Mo. She worked at a fast-food restaurant in the small town, located 145 miles south of St. Louis, and was well known in the area, local television station KFVS reports (note: the Sikeston Department of Public Safety misgendered Pop in their initial report).
Authorities say Pop died from her injuries.
Pop’s killing is believed to be the 10th violent death of a transgender or gender-nonconforming person so far this year, says Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for LGTBQ civil rights. Five trans victims were killed in the last month alone; all of them were women of color.
“We are seeing an epidemic of violence that can no longer be ignored. Transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially trans women of color, risk our lives by living as our true selves—and we are being violently killed for doing so,” said Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement.
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, called attention to the “wave of violence” facing trans women of color.
“Police and other government officials must do more to keep transgender people safe, to thoroughly investigate crimes against our community and to stop enacting laws that enable transgender people to be targeted,” Keisling said, according to The Advocate.
Pose actor and activist Indya Moore was among the celebrities lifting up Pop’s name this weekend, sharing an image of her and reflecting on what liberty means for black trans women in an Instagram post.
“Trans people are different. And I know, [it’s] scary because you may not understand what makes our bodies so different,” Moore wrote, acknowledging that many people are educated to fear trans people or regard them as “sinful.”
Whatever the causes for that fear, “I can promise you that there is nothing worse in this world than the action of violently taking a life deserving soul who was never a threat- spiritually, physically, fiscally or otherwise,” they continued. “PLEASE let us breathe..”
As of last week, investigators had yet to determine a motive for the killing, said Sikeston police chief James McMillen. According to the Associated Press, the region’s major case squad and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are helping with the investigation. McMillen said they are looking into the possibility of Pops’ death being a hate crime.