NEW ORLEANS -- The recent murders of three transgender women in Louisiana are not linked, but their deaths are part of a disturbing trend.
The fear is real in New Orleans for trans women like Imani Dupree.
“I’ve been frightened, but not like this before,” Dupree said.
Last month, Dupree’s close friends Chyna Gibson and Ciara McElveen were murdered within days of each other. A week earlier, Jaquarrius Holland was killed in another Louisiana town.
All of the victims were trans women of color.
“What scares me the most is that people will feel like they can get away with these things and nothing will be done about it,” Dupree said.
While the three murders in Louisiana aren’t connected, they highlight an alarming trend. Seven trans women have been killed nationwide already this year. Last year, a record 23 were killed -- the majority black and Latino women.
Beverly Tillery, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, tracks these cases and feels the political climate including bathroom bills are making the trans community less safe.
“When you can’t be valued for simply who you are then that sets up a situation where people think they can do anything to you,” Tillery said.
Tillery says discrimination often leaves trans women of color without jobs and living in dangerous neighborhoods. Many states, including Louisiana, don’t protect trans people under hate crime laws.
Dupree, who works as a professional makeup artist, mentors young people in a community trying to find its voice.
“How many more people have to be killed before something is done about it?” Dupree asked.
Dupree says they are tired, but won’t give up their right to live as who they are.