- Associated Press - Saturday, November 25, 2017

ATLANTA (AP) - Candace Towns was found dead in Macon between two neglected houses on Halloween. Towns, 30, was last seen on surveillance video of a gas station near the Roadway Inn where she was living. She had been shot and abandoned. A human rights group says Towns was the fourth reported transgender person killed in Georgia this year, and 25th nationwide.

Violence against transgender people is at an all-time high, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported .

More than 60 percent of the deaths have occurred in the South. Twenty-one of the 25 killed were women of color.

Zahara Green, 27, had been in Macon a couple weeks before Towns’ body was found. A transgender woman of color herself, Green said Towns’ murder was upsetting.

“This could (have been) me at any point in my life,” she said.

An FBI report released last week on hate crimes showed an increase against the LGBT community in 2016 compared to the previous year. Nearly 1,200 such crimes committed last year were motivated by bias of sexual orientation, accounting for one in six hate crimes committed, the Atlanta newspaper reported.

Georgia is one of five states nationally that does not have a hate crime statute on the books. Fifteen other states have hate crime laws, but do not address sexual orientation or gender identity.

This year in Georgia:

- Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17, was shot during an altercation in the parking lot of an Athens apartment complex on June 25. The man who allegedly shot her initially claimed self defense, but was charged with murder and aggravated assault in connection with Barrin’s death.

- TeeTee Dangerfield, 32, was killed in Atlanta on July 31 while sitting in her car. Police said gender did not play a role in her death, but the family has its doubts. “All lives matter,” the woman’s aunt, Alesa Dangerfield, told WSB-TV in August. “No one has the right to take someone’s life.” Three weeks after her death, Tyrone Kemp was charged with malice murder. Police said there was evidence that Kemp was with Dangerfield when she was killed.

- Scout Schultz, 21, was shot by a Georgia Tech police officer on Sept. 16. Schultz, who identified as neither male nor female, was seen walking toward police, yelling for officers to shoot him and ignoring numerous orders to drop what appeared to be a pocket knife, authorities said at the time.

Barrin, Dangerfield and Schultz were the 15th, 17th, and 22nd deaths nationwide, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s report on the deaths.

Crimes motivated by an anti-transgender bias also increased to 111 incidents in 2016; up from 76 the year before, the Atlanta newspaper reported.

As more people come out and refuse to be silenced by homophobia and transphobia, “more conversations that sometimes turn ugly are going to happen,” Christian Zsilavetz, a transgender educator and activist.


Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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