Mel Groves is 41st Known Victim of Deadly Anti-Trans Violence in 2021

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday October 25, 2021

Mel Groves, 25, a Black transgender man, died of gunshot wounds in Jackson, Mississippi on Oct. 11. He is the 41st trans or gender-nonconforming victim of lethal violence this year.

Groves was a student studying plant soil science at Alcorn State University, NBC News reported.

NBC News detailed that "Groves drove himself to Merit Health Central, a hospital in Jackson, where he lived, and collapsed outside his car, Jackson police said. He had been shot multiple times. Hospital staff members transferred him to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where he died later in the afternoon."

"Groves' loved ones said news articles have reduced his life to a statistic," such as the numbers tallied every year by the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks lethal violence directed at the transgender community. "They said his story does speak to how law enforcement and social safety nets fail trans people," NBC News added, "but they stress that he was more than just a statistic in an increasing tally."

Friends and family spoke of Groves' "generous heart" and love of plants at his memorial on Oct. 17, the article said.

"In addition to studying plant science, Groves was also a farmer for the Knights and Orchids Society, an organization based in Selma, Alabama, that prioritizes supporting the Black trans and gender-nonconforming community," the report went on to note. "Just before he died, he was about to become the full-time garden manager for the society."

The city's law enforcement says that there is "no indication that Groves was killed in a hate crime," NBC News detailed, adding, "his loved ones say that doesn't mean that his identity as a trans man can be separated from his death."

A friend of Groves, Caleb Gumbs, said that after seeing a post online questioning whether Groves was shot to death for his gender identity, "that made me really think about, wow, is that really what it takes for us to understand the systems that are at play that have ultimately led to his murder, whether or not it was directly related to him being trans?"

"In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Groves was misgendered in some media and police reports," the HRC noted. "According to HRC research, it is estimated that approximately three-quarters of all known victims were misgendered by the media and/or by law enforcement."

Groves' shooting death followed that of Kiér Laprí Kartier, "a 21-year-old Black transgender woman," the HRC reported, who "was fatally shot in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 30."

Though NBC News identified Groves as the 39th trans or gender non-conforming person to die violently in 2021, the HRC reported on two other individuals who had died previous to Groves' murder but not been known about until after reports of Groves' death.

"Royal Poetical Starz, a 26-year-old Black trans woman, was fatally shot in Miami Gardens, Florida on Oct. 2, " HRC reported. Also, "Zoella 'Zoey' Rose Martinez, a 20-year-old Latina trans woman, was fatally shot in Maple Valley, Washington back on Aug. 31, 2021. Her body was later found in Seattle. Initial reports did not recognize Zoey as transgender until her family confirmed her identity this month."

2020 saw 44 known killings of transgender and gender non-conforming people — the largest number since the HRC began keeping track in 2013.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.