Dozens of people attended a candlelight vigil held in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park on Monday to honor the life of a 19-year-old autistic transgender woman who was killed by her father inside their home last month.
The vigil was organized by the friends of Kathryn “Katie” Newhouse and raised awareness about the rise in violence against transgender and gender non-conforming community members in the U.S.
“She was like a little sister to me,” Journey Jennings, Newhouse’s friend, told WSB-TV Atlanta. “She was a real sweetheart… I would’ve never imagined something like this happening to her.”
“A native of Illinois, Kathryn was most recently living with her family in Canton, Georgia. Kathryn was a Minecraft and UberSpire enthusiast, an advocate for trans rights, had a bright smile, enjoyed changing up her hairstyles, and [was] attentive to world events,” Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reported. “She was proud of her AAPI heritage.”
On March 19, officers from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a shooting in Newhouse’s home in the Bridge Mill subdivision at around 5:45 p.m. Authorities found the bodies of the teenager and her 57-year-old father, Howard Newhouse. They later confirmed that Kathryn Newhouse’s father fatally shot her before killing himself with the same gun.
The teenager’s mother was reportedly at home during the incident, but she was not injured. Kathryn Newhouse’s brother, Chris, woke up to a voicemail from their mother about the incident. Chris said his sister suffered from psychological disorders for years and was released from an in-patient mental health institution before the pandemic.
“Whenever they pushed her out of that mental health intuition and forced her to come back home, that’s when everything really brought a lot of stress and tension upon our family and that’s when a lot of the stressful stuff started happening,” he added.
Past court records revealed that Kathryn Newhouse and her father had both been arrested years prior. Howard Newhouse reportedly held his daughter down by her throat on a bed on April 9, 2019, while Kathryn Newhouse reportedly hit a cup her father was holding on Jan. 28, 2020, which resulted in his glasses being pushed into his face and cutting his nose. Both of their cases were eventually dismissed.
The teenager had a rough childhood and wanted to leave the state, according to two of her friends who were at the vigil.
Calling what happened a “tragedy,” Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative at the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement last week that “as a young Asian-American transgender woman, [Newhouse’s] passion for advocacy and learning about the world shined as bright as her smile.”
“We must work to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people facing abuse so they can safely live their truth and dismantle life-threatening systems of oppression,” Cooper added.
Meanwhile, Jennings hopes that what happened to her friend will serve as a wake-up call: “I want people to realize that violence against trans people and violence against [people living with autism] and violence against Asian Americans is real and it’s an epidemic. I don’t want stories like Kathryn’s swept under the rug. I want change and action to come from this. I think it’s important.”
Kathryn Newhouse was most likely the eighth reported person who died from an incident targeting transgender or gender-non conforming people in the U.S. this year. At least 57 trans people – most of them being trans people of color – were killed last year, making it the deadliest year for the U.S. trans community.