HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - With a bright smile, and big brown eyes, Tiona Bowman is living her life to the fullest - finally free of a dark, painful past.
"So many years I stayed in the position as a sex worker because I felt I couldn't get another job," said Bowman.
For 20 years, Bowman was a sex worker in Hampton Roads. In 1999, she made her transition, and it’s only been five years since she has been able to work out of the sex trade.
"The biggest problem is the stigma that follows trans women in our community," said Bowman.
In fact, trans women of color and Latina women are targeted every day here at home and across the globe.
"We are trying to live our lives in peace, and yet people continuously attack us for being different," said De Sube, Chairperson of the Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia.
Stube says a culture of embolden bigotry in our society has resulted in more transgender murders since numbers started being recorded.
This week, the FBI confirmed that hate crimes were the highest in a decade in the U.S - more than 51 murders in 2019. There have been 34 trans murders this year alone.
In 2015, the first murder of the year in Hampton Roads was of an African American transgender woman. Thirty-year-old Lamia Beard was shot to death, and her killer was never found.
"If I were to use one word to describe it, I would say, 'ignorance,'" said Sube.
Friday TAP-VA well as the LGBT Life Center center will hold a virtual Transgender day of Remembrance to bring visibility to a preyed-upon population.
"We will be remembering those who were senselessly murdered and honoring trans people attempting to live authentic lives despite obstacles of homelessness social economic status and racism," said Sube.
This is a simple way we can be better advocates and allies for the transgender community who face daily discrimination and often violence.
"A lot of us feel helpless, and I want to give voices to those who are helpless," said Bowman.