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National Trans Awareness Week honors victims of hate crimes

National Trans Awareness Week honors victims of hate crimes in Mississippi
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Diamons Stephens, a transgender woman, was murdered in June.

LGBTQ advocates are raising awareness about violence and discrimination against transgender individuals in Mississippi. MPB's Ashley Norwood reports on National Trans Awareness Week.

A transgender individual is someone who identifies differently than the gender they were assigned at birth. There are at least 15,000 transgender people living in Mississippi, according to UCLA's Williams Institute. Jensen Matar of Jackson is a transgender male. He says it's important people see trans individuals no differently than others.

"We are all valid humans with purpose. We want to be successful. We all want to live great lives, leave a legacy and we all deserve to be treated with respect," said Matar.

But, he says, that's not always the case. In 2018, at least 22 murders in the U.S. have been identified as violence against transgender people.

Rob Hill is state director of the Human Rights Campaign. He says black trans women are disproportionately affected.

"And this is certainly the case in Mississippi. Um, over the last three years the murders that have happened wether it be Diamond Stephens over in Meridian, or wether it be Mesha Caldwell in early 2017 in Madison County and there were certainly other murders that occurred in previous years," said Hill.

Hill says the only laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity protections are federal. Mississippi has none.

"So very often, a lot of the crimes that occur against trans people they may not be investigated or prosecuted as a hate crime," said Hill.

Hill says the campaign is pushing for legislation that will hold individuals accountable for discrimination and violence against others based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Ashley Norwood, MPB News.