HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Local organizations have come together to bring attention to the startling statistics regarding transgender murders in Houston.
In the last five years, more transgender people have been killed in Texas than in any other state. Some said its becoming a national epidemic, especially with transgender women of color being murdered at an alarming rate.
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The Human Rights Campaign tracks transgender homicides and has been doing so since 2013. So far, 2020 has seen the worst with at least 26 transgender murders, one shy of last year's combine total of 27.
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"People don't understand the severity because the murders of Black trans women are justified before the murders are even committed," said Mia Porter, a Black transgender woman.
That's why a new transgender advocacy group in Houston put up a big billboard on I-10 at Gregg Street near downtown, reading, "Protect Black Trans Women."
"As a Black trans woman I drive by this sign and I see a sign of hope. I see a message of hope, especially in an urban community. I haven't seen hope in those places for me," said Porter.
Porter and Ian Haddock have been friends since the 8th grade and have faced a lot of tough times, together, all because they were different.
"I just didn't know how to be there, and it took me a long time to go through the process of protecting her," said Haddock.
Now, Haddock is hoping to protect other transgender women. The group behind the sign is the Transgender Ally Collective, which was started in August and consists of four local LGBTQ organizations. Haddock, the executive director of Normal Anomaly Initiative, said the billboard's message is not only shedding light on the deadly trend, but it's about love and acceptance.
"Who I am hoping to reach is the Black trans woman who has no connection to social media, who has no connection to the different media sources that are reaching out. The girl who doesn't feel like she's being seen or having to do things and is homeless based upon circumstances and opportunities or the lack there of. She can look up and say wow somebody actually cares," said Haddock.
Porter added that it's important to have "the capacity and the compassion to love those even who you don't understand."