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As transgender murders rise, family of victim calls for compassion

trans deaths
Posted at 3:26 PM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 15:49:00-04

Loss can be impossible to comprehend when it’s so sudden, and especially when it’s so personal.

“She was wonderful. She was awesome. She was cheerful all the time," Maria Carreon said of her daughter, Iris Santos.

Iris Santos was murdered on April 23.

“She had to deal with so much every day,” said Iris' sister Louvier Santos. “She was always so strong."

Police say Iris Santos was shot and killed outside a Houston fast food restaurant. Police released video of a suspect running away.

“I cannot drive by where she used to live because it’s just broken my heart to go by," Carreon said. "Missing her is like the worst thing.”

She was a sister. A daughter. A transgender woman.

“She never really let any of the bad stuff get to her. It was rare that she ever, she ever told me that she was upset about anything," Louvier Santos recalled.

While Iris' family accepted her for who she was, they say she met many people who did not.

“Every day it was harassment to her. She lived every day like that," Carreon said.

Her mom and sister say Iris rarely let the hate get to her. She was tougher than that, but it’s hard not to worry in a world that can feel empty of empathy and understanding.

“It was like every day. Leaving, just leaving, every day in my mind, in my heart that something is going to happen to her because there is so much hate around trans," Carreon expressed.

There is a growing number of stories like Iris’ nationwide.

The year 2020 saw the most murders of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States ever recorded by the Human Rights Campaign.

This year is on pace to be deadlier, with at least 27 deaths so far across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The majority of victims are Latinx and Black trans women.

“When we talk about racism, when we talk about homophobia, when we talk about classism, when we talk about conservativism, we are out the box," said Diamond Stylz, a transgender advocate in Houston.

She says she’s lost friends to this kind of violence.

While the reason behind the violence may lie in several layers, Stylz believes as trans issues have become more often a political target, so have trans people.

"When you are ignoring people’s lives, ignoring people’s humanity, that allows you to see and ignore some of the travesties that are happening in their lives," she said.

Inside the home of the family of iris Santos, where candles and pictures honor a life ripped away, they hold onto faith to keep her memory alive.

"We just try to remember the best thing of her and celebrate her life every day like she was here," Carreon said.

Houston Police say anyone with information on the suspect's identity or whereabouts should call HPD Homicide at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers of Houston's tip line at 713-222-TIPS.