‘They light the way for humankind’: Community remembers trans people lost to violence

Milford. A crowd of 30 shared somber remembrances of lost friends and cherished memories of good times together during this TriVersity event.

| 27 Nov 2021 | 07:49

TriVersity president Steven Teague opened the 22nd Transgender Day of Remembrance at United Methodist Church with thoughts for those in the transgender community lost to violence.

Rabbi Frank Tamburello gave the opening meditation.

TriVersity vice president Simone Kraus talked about the 54 trans people murdered in the United States during the past year.

Fresh coffee, hot chocolate, sweet treats, gender bracelets, flags and remembrances were shared by a crowd of 30, whose somber remembrances of lost friends also reflected memories of good times. One in the crowd said, “No one can be replaced. Each is his own individual truth.”

Here follow excerpts from some of the speeches that evening.

Steven Teague

Tonight’s vigil just like others across the county is one of the most important events for the Pride community all year but, to me, it is perhaps the most difficult to get through. In fact, it can be downright triggering. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be trans and have a day which serves as a reminder of the heavy risks you take merely by existing openly.

This isn’t to say that you can only be triggered by tonight’s event if you’re trans. If you have a trans friend, family member or loved one, or if you just have a strong sense of empathy and compassion, what you see and hear may become overwhelming for you. Just know that you are surrounded by affirming ministers and loving friends who will comfort you in any way we can.

Despite the evenings challenges transgender day of remembrance is all too necessary. We need the opportunity to mourn not only those we lost but also mourn a society and culture where this type and magnitude of hate and violence exist at all. We need to honor and celebrate the beautiful souls taken from us too soon, and we need to an event with the emotional punch to spur us into action.

And that’s my plea for you tonight. If you are moved at all by what you see and hear, then act. Help your trans community. Make this night the beginning of your activism, not the end. If you don’t know how you can help come talk to us. Let’s work toward a world where this type and level of hate and violence goes the way of obscurity and then blissfully into extinction..

Rabbi Frank Tamburello

“There are stars whose radiance is visible on earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.” (Hannah Szenes, Jewish Hungarian partisan murdered by the Nazis in 1944. She was 23.)

Today on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we call to mind young and old, of every race, faith, and gender experience who have died by violence. We remember those who have died because they would not hide, or did not pass, or did pass, or stood too proud. Today we name them: the reluctant activist, the fiery hurler of heels, the warrior for quiet truth, the one whom no one really knew.

As many as we can name, there are thousands more whom we cannot, whose lives have never been commemorated, and whose stories have never been told. We mourn their senseless deaths, and give thanks for their lives, for their teaching, and for the brief glow of each holy flame. We pray for the strength to carry on their legacy of vision, bravery and love.

As we remember them, we remember with them the thousands more who have taken their own lives. We pray for resolve to root out the injustice, ignorance, and cruelty that grow despair. May those who perpetuate hate and violence speedily come to understand that this wondrous miracle of creation has many faces, many genders, and many wonderful expressions.

According to Kabbalah, our Jewish mystical tradition, gender fluidity in the Scriptures was regarded as common. For example, Jacob’s daughter Dinah was conceived with the soul of a man. Likewise, Abraham’s son Isaac was ensouled as a woman but born as a man. The first human being, Adam, was created androgynous, having characteristics of both a man and a woman.”

Simone Kraus

On the evening of Nov. 28, 1998, the eve of her 35th birthday, Rita Hester was found in her apartment stabbed multiple times. She died of cardiac arrest upon arrival at the ER. Rita was a Transwomen of color. This death so outraged the transgender community in Boston, that the following year, Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a vigil to commemorated Rita Hester’s murder. And this started our tradition of remembering those of our community who have lost their lives from violence, solely because of our gender identity.

The last ten years, sadly, there were about 20 deaths each year. In 2020, there were 44 transgender deaths, a dramatic horrifying jump in statistics. We have unfortunately surpassed that this year. In 2021 so far we have lost another 48. From last Nov. 20 to this Nov. 20 we have lost 54 of our trans sisters, brothers and gender expansive souls.

There have been more than 161 bills introduced in 2021, aimed to curb the rights of transgender people. This year far surpasses the 82 bills in 2020. These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they are not being requested by constituents. Rather, this effort is being driven by far right organizations attempting to score political points by instilling fear and hate. The majority of transgender deaths this year occurred in states promoting anti transgender legislations.

The de-humanizing of the trans community is trying to use legislation. In turn, the work to make the law give ammunition to the haters, who now see us as a lesser part of humanity, almost as sub-humans. And they feel they are in their rights to verbally abuse and physically assault us because of their remarks that dehumanize us. The leaders of anti-LGBT churches and even our politicians and the local boards of education all the way to the halls of Congress use their bully pulpits to demonize the transgender community.

We, as a community, must not cower in that corner they are attempting to push us into. Folks we must look to our past, look to our history. The Trans community has been on the radar in America since 1966 with Dr. Harry Benjamins published of The Transsexual Phenomenon. It was the first medical textbook that promoted changing trans bodies to match their mind, not vice versa. The Compton’s Cafeteria incident in August of 1966 was when a transwoman rioted in response to the violent and constant harassment by police in the tenderloin district of San Francisco. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, revered as the mothers of trans activism, were on the front lines of The Stonewall Inn uprising in the early hours of June 28, 1969. We must find that strength of defiance they all displayed when pushed into a corner. They rose up and had their voices heard. Folks an attack on one transperson is an attack on every transgender person.

The majority of the transgender deaths have been Black and Indigenous People of Color. These victims were loving partners, family members and friends. They went to school, attended houses of worship, and often worked multiple jobs just to survive. These were real people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them.

These are the names of those we lost from last November 20th 2020 till today November 20th 2021:

#1 ASIA JYNAE FORSTER, 22, was killed exactly one year ago today in Houston. TX. Her Friends described her as “A beacon of light in their community.“

#2 KIMBERLY FIAL, 55, a white trans-woman, was murdered November 22nd at the homeless shelter where she worked in San Jose, CA. She was remembered as “A kind and loving person who had“a twinkle in her eyes.”

#3 CHAE’ MESHIA SIMMS of Richmond, VA, ,lost her life on November 23rd. ChaeChae, as she was known to her friends and family, was remembered as good, kind, and especially caring.

#4 JAHEIM PUGH, whose death was videotaped by party goers as he bled to death Dec 13th in Alabama. In the background of the tape people could be heard saying “This wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t wearing that dress.” He was remembered by friends and families as “The life of the Party” and as such a “Bright Light.”

#5 COURTNEY “Eshay” KEY, 25, llost her life on Christmas Day. Loved ones described her as “A Vibrant and beautiful woman who had a big heart and big dreams.”

#6 ALEXANDRIA WINCHESTER, 24, a Latina trans-woman, lost her life the day after Christmas.

#7 TYIANNA ALEXANDER, 28, a black trans woman, was shot to death on January 6th in Chicago. She was remembered on social media as “A beautiful light. This lady was nothing but life, encouragement, motivation and fun.”

#8 SAMUEL EDMUND DAMIAN VALENTIN, 26 died on January 9th in Puerto Rico. He had posted on New Years Day on FB “A new year to come, grateful for all the experiences who taught me how strong we really are to life, to good and bad and for all justice that is to come.” He often spoke out against violence in Puerto Rico.

#9 BIANCA “MUFFIN” BANKZ, a black transgender woman died, by gun violence on January 17th in Atlanta GA. They said, “Muffin was just blossoming into herself.”

#10 DOMINIQUE JACKSON, a black transgender woman was another victim shot to death on January 25th in Jackson, MS. Dominique was the “Mother of the Haus of Redd” and founder of The Ladi Redd Inc. She was remembered on social media: “Heart is heavy” and another sharing “I’m at a loss for words.”

#11 FIFTY BANDZ, 21 a black transgender woman lost her life in Baton Rouge, LA on January 28th. Friends on FB commented, “When as a community are we going to do something?!”

#12 ALEXUS BRAXTON also known as Kimmy Icon Braxton a 45 year old black trans woman, a hair stylist, was killed on February 4th in Miami, Fl. One of her last FB posts said “They can’t stop my shine.”

#13 CHYNA CARRILLO, also known as Chyna Cardenas, was killed in the morning hours of February 18th in New Wilmington PA. She had celebrated her 25th birthday just weeks before.

#14 & #15 Siblings JEFFERY “JJ” BRIGHT a 16 year old trans-boy and JASMINE CANNADY a 22 year old non-binary person, both were from Ambridge PA, were killed on February 22nd. Both were active in PRISM, a non-profit LGBTQ+ youth group of Beaver County, PA. PRISM described Jasmine as “A sweet, shy, artistic soul who loved to dance.

#16 ENNA FRANKS 34, awhite transgender woman, was killed in Jacksonville, NC in February. Jenna was part of the Onslow County LGBTQ+ Community Center. The executive director of the center described Jenna as “A Beautiful soul and a breath of fresh air”.

#17 DIAMOND KYREE SANDERS, 23, a Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Cincinnati, OH on March 3rd. Diamond was known as a ball of energy who valued her family and spending time with them. She traveled to NYC one week and to New Orleans the next. She was thankful her family accepted her for who she was, a transgender woman.

#18 RAYANNA PARDO, 26, a Latina trans woman was killed on St Patrick’s Day in Los Angeles. “Rayanna was such a beautiful young person who just wanted to live her life and be herself,” said Trans Latina Coalition President Bamby Salcedo.

#19 JAIDA PETERSON, 29, a Black trans woman, killed on April 4th in Charlotte, NC. She was remembered on social media when her sister shared, “You are going to be truly missed and once again we love you always.”

#20 DOMINIQUE LUCIOUS, 26 year old Black transgender woman was shot and killed on April 8th in Springfield MI. One friend on social media shared, “Many don’t get to live in their authentic truth. You were fierce, glam, and honey gorgeous! I love you now, tomorrow and forever.”

#21 REMY FENNELL a Black transgender woman in her 20’s was shot to death on April 15th in Charlotte, NC. Remy’s aunt said “She was a vibrant young transgender woman who was just trying to make it and was doing it. She started her own business, graduated from cosmetology school. She left her mark on the hair industry.”

#22 TIARA BANKS, 24, a Black transgender woman, killed in Chicago Illinois on April 21st. “At 24 years old Tiara had her whole life ahead of her and, instead, we are remembering her because of the ongoing fatal violence agaisnt transgender people,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, Tori Cooper.

#23 NATALIE SMUT, 24, a Black and Puerto Rican transgender woman, killed on April 23rd in Milpitas, CA. Natalie was a celebrated drag artist in the San Jose LGBTQ community. She was described as having “a motivating spirit, captivating performances and a love for advocacy within the community.”

#24 IRIS SANTOS, 22, a Latinx transgender woman killed in Houston TX April 23rd. Iris was just sitting at a picnic table enjoying a meal when an unidentified subject approached and shot her. “Iris was so young with so many things to look forward to,” said Tori Cooper of Human Rights campaign. “Iris was simply minding her own business, sitting and eating when her life was cut abruptly short.”

#25 TIFFANY THOMAS, 38, a Black trans woman was killed on April 24th in Dallas, TX. She was remembered as someone who had “a big heart who was funny and stayed laughing. She was very stylish.”

#26 KERI WASHINGTON, 49, a Black transgender woman killed on May 1st in Clearwater FL

#27 JAHAIRA DEALTO, 42, a transgender woman was killed on May 2nd in Boston MA. A well known and beloved transgender advocate, an advocate for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and a memeber of the House of Balenciaga, a founder of Berkshire TDOR and Bershire Pride Festival. She had shared on Twitter, “I am the mother who raised the children whose rainbow sparkled too brightly and blinded their birth moms. I know what gratitude in the eyes of a young person who finally feels when seen looks like. And for me that is enough.”

This trans woman’s death really resonated with me. In our community so many of our young trans youth are thrown out of their homes, their family and friends disown them, turn their backs on them once they live their truth. I have a little story to tell here. When I was lost and struggling looking for answers and some guidance on how to transition and live my life, live my truth, I met a transwoman who I’ll call Cee. She gave me the answers and direction I needed. I often joke when I’m talking to her that I consider her my trans mother. She hates when I say that. As someone who is viewed as a trans elder, and yes I have a friend to whom I gave some helpful advice to on her road to her truth, called me her trans mother. Every trans man, every trans woman I have ever known, are always there to help one of our own with their journey towards living their truth, because we are a sorority and a fraternity for each other. ,

#28 WHISPERING WIND BEAR SPIRIT, 41, an Indeigenous non-binary person shot in York, PA . on May 3rd, passing away on May 4th. She was remembered on FB as “a beautiful soul” and “you will be missed.”

#29 SOPHIE VASQUEZ, 36, a Latina transgender woman shot and killed in Georgia on May 4th. Sophie was part of Community Estrella. They works to support transgender people in the Atlanta area. She was remembered as “The kindest person on the planet and as someone who was truly beautiful inside and out”.

#30 DANIKA “Danny” HENSON who also went by Prynce Daniel and Niia Da Don on FB, 31, a black transgender woman who was shot and killed in Baltimore, Henson had just begun transitioning. A family member shared that Henson “always had a Big heart. There was love behind everything.”

#31 SERENITY HOLLIS, 24, a Black trans woman was shot and killed in Albany, GA on May 8th. Her mother said that “The person that’s responsible has no idea what they took from us. I absolutely want to see that justice is served,”

#32 OLIVER “Ollie” TAYLOR, 17, a white trans boy died on May 19th after being kidnapped and shot on May 12th in Gervais, Oregon. He was a student at Gervais HS where he was involved in the Gervais Future Farmers of America Organization. Oliver was remembered as “An amazing child with a quirky sense of humor, who impacted so many.”

#33 THOMAS HARDIN, 35, a Black transgender woman was killed May 2nd in York, SC. Friends shared that Hardin identified as a woman, continued to use the name Thomas and used both he and she pronouns. Thomas was remembered as “someone who always kept you laughing.”

#34 POE BLACK who also went by Oliver Jackson and Legion, was 21, a transgender man who was killed in Niland, CA in Slab City in early May. Originally from Nashville, TN and often posted about disability rights and Black Lives Matter on social media, he was also an artist, with several online stores where he displayed and sold his art.

#35 EJ BOYKIN who also went by Novaa Watson, was killed in Lynchburg, Virginia on June 14. He had just recently celebrated his 23rd birthday on June 10 and was studying at Morgan State University. It appears EJ was also the parent of a young child. One of Boykin’s friends said, “He was loved and like[d] by everyone. He was one of those people who was filled with good vibes and energy.”

#36 AIDELEN EVANS, 24, a Black transgender woman found dead in March in Port Arthur, TX. Originally from Beaumont, TX, had recently spent time in Port Arthur, Beaumont and Houston. “Nobody — no parent should have to go through this,” said Lois Balka, Aidelen’s grandmother, in March. “You will always be in my heart.”

#37 TAYA ASHTON, 20, a Black trans woman, killed in Suitland, Prince George’s County, Maryland on July 17. According to social media, friends and family held a vigil and balloon release to remember Taya. “Taya was just at the beginning of her life -- a life that she deserved to live to its fullest.”

#38 SHAI VANDERPUMP, 23, a Black trans woman, killed in Trenton, NJ on July 30th. Shai, a fierce LGBTQ advocate, known for her style and love of family with a heart of gold who loved to dress, smile and see everyone happy and smiling.

#39 TIERRA MARIE LEWIS, 36, a Black trans woman, lost her life June 12th, to misgendering and misnaming from local officials in Cleveland, OH. Her death was reported six weeks later. She moved to Cleveland last year for a fresh start. Her friends remembered her as a spirited girl. One day she would have purple hair, one day pink hair and always an outfit to go with those colors.

#40 MISS COCO, 44, a transwoman of color, killed in Dallas, TX on August 7th. She was “a well known girl with a big bubbly personality. CoCo was a happy person and proud to be living her Truth.

#41 POOH JHOHNSON, 25, a Black trans woman, was killed in Shreveport, LA on August 23, 2021. Johnson was an accomplished makeup artist named Titanizer.

#42 DISAYA MONAEED, 32, a Black transgender woman, was fatally shot in Chicago on Sept. 6.

#43 BRIANA HAMILTON, 25, Black Transgender woman fatally shot Sept 6th in Chicago.

#44 KIER LAPRI KARTIERK, a 21-year-old Black transgender woman, fatally shot in Arlington, TX on Sept. 30th, Kartier was from Dallas, TX, graduated from Skyline HS. Her friends remembered her on social media as a “very strong, independent person” who “always had my back through thick and thin.”

#45 MEL GROVES, 25, a Black trans man fatally shot on Oct. 11, 2021 in Jackson, MS. Groves was a plant soil scientist at Alcorn State University who loved agriculture and animals. Groves was an active member of The Knights & Orchids Society, “a southern centered grassroots startup founded and led by black, queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people supporting gender justice and LGBTQ visibility.”

#46 ROYAL POETICAL STARZ, 26, a Black trans woman fatally shot in Miami Gardens, FL on Oct. 2, a graduate of Florida Career College Vocational School. On social media, she was remembered as “the life of the party.”

#47ZOELLA “ZOEY” ROSE MARTINEZ, 20, a Latina trans woman, fatally shot in Maple Valley, WA Aug. 31, 2021. Her body was found in Seattle. Reports did not recognize Zoey as transgender until her family confirmed her identity. In a statement the Martinez’s family shared that “Zoey mastered makeup that accentuated her loving and caring personality. Zoey had a beautiful spirit, always had a smile and had only kind words to say about others. Zoey was a born leader and her peers acknowledged her as such.”

#48 JO ACKER, 26, a transgender woman, killed in Boise, ID on Oct 26, Acker was one of the victims of a tragic shooting at Boise Towne Square mall while working security. Her family said Acker ran toward the suspect to stop him, likely saving many lives. Acker’s family told the media that Acker was “a hero” and “the type of person that always wanted to help people.” They added that she “will be greatly missed.”

#49 JESSIE HART, 42,, a transgender woman killed in Banks, OR. Her body was found on Oct. 17th. Hart and her teenaged son, Caleb, had been struggling with housing insecurity, staying in hotel rooms through subsidized and nonprofit assistance. Later, they both were staying in her black Saab. Unfortunately, not much is known about Hart’s personal life. “As transgender people, we often face so many challenges and uncertainties, including housing and employment security,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. “My heart and that of the community goes out to her son, Caleb.”

#50 RICKY OUTUMURA, AKA Tru Starlet, 39, a Latina transgender woman who was fatally shot in Centralia, WA. on Oct. 30th or the morning of Oct. 31st. Outumuro was a popular and well-loved member of the Washington LGBTQ+ community. She performed under the drag name Tru Starlet and was a former Miss Gay Lewis County. Friends remembered her on social media, writing she was “an incredible advocate for the queer and trans community for nearly 20 years.”

#51 MARQUISSHA LAWRENCE, 28, a Black trans woman, was “very humble,” as one friend remembers her, and had a “heart of gold.” Lawrence’s friend said that her favorite thing to do was to cook because she felt it “filled the belly and fed the heart.” Lawrence was fatally shot in South Carolina on Nov. 4, 2021.

#52 JENNY DE LEON, 25, from Tampa, FL. Her muder is still being investigated. She was remembered, “Jenny was such a fun-spirited and stubborn young woman who never let anything get in her way.”

#53 DANYATE JOHNSON. 35, a Black Transwoman was killed Nov. 13th in Memphis, TN .

#54 ANGEL NAIRA, 36. a Black Transwoman killed Nov. 17th in Aliquippa. PA. She was the 5th trans person murdered in Pennsylvania this past year. That’s 10% of those killed for living their truth here in Pennsylvania.