By Sue Kerr
For ten years, I have been documenting violence against the trans community by writing memorial posts on my blog, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. While my work overlaps with the work of Transgender Day of Remembrance volunteers, I am specifically using a calendar year and focusing on victims of fatal violence. Transgender Day of Remembrance, or TDOR, is today, November 20th, an annual remembrance of transgender people killed by anti-trans violence. To refer to my work memorializing trans people as a TDOR list would miss a lot of people whose lives we should honor on this day. You can find one international list for TDOR here.
Perhaps you wonder why a white cisgender middle-aged lesbian from Pittsburgh is compiling this post for GLAAD on TDOR 2023? I think people like myself are exactly the folx who need to have that conversation and listen better to the needs of our transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming neighbors.
My specific work began in the spring of 2013 when a trans man friend of mine living in nearby Ohio asked me to write a ‘decent’ post about the death of Cemia Acoff in Cleveland. The word ‘decent’ resonated with me as he explained that they needed media content that was accurate, used the appropriate name and pronouns, included photos that were not mug shots or associated with Cernia’s old life, and did not fetishize the violence of her death. The goals were to raise awareness of the crime and raise visibility of the victim.
That seemed like a reasonable thing to ask from any LGBTQ blogger, so I began. And later that year two other Cleveland trans women were murdered, so I wrote posts for them as well. My content is intended to memorialize the individual people. Part news report of the facts of their death, part celebration of their life, and now part tabulation of the toll this vicious epidemic of anti-trans violence takes on our communities.
Reports of deaths were frequent so I created a template to honor my friend’s wishes – I searched for their lived name, a representative photo, and described the circumstances of their deaths accurately but without sensationalizing the details. And I went looking for details about their life story, typically combing through social media to find their passions, professions, hobbies, and interests.
If appropriate, I include information on the police investigation into their death to encourage readers who might have a bit of information to take action.
And of course, I do not use deadnames or misgender anyone. This is not difficult to do, but unfortunately is not always the case with mainstream media coverage.
A few years ago, I began adding context for each post – how did their unique identity tell the larger story? I track race and ethnicity, age, gender identity, and more. I also now calculate the rates of death with each new post because I don’t think people are paying enough attention and sometimes data connects with people.
I am far from the only person doing this work, but I am a rarity as a cisgender white lesbian. I feel an obligation to hold up a mirror to my LGBQ readers and social media followers. I see a clear connection between protecting trans kids and honoring the deceased. So I try to do both. I distribute #ProtectTransKids yard signs and I circulate memorial posts. In between I write about events and legislation and incorporate trans voices in my reporting. I also loudly renounce TERFs (so-called “radical feminists” who do not support transgender people or their rights).
I have found new comrades with the Trans Doe Task Force and LGBT+ Accountability for Missing and Murdered Persons as well as journalists who document in their own medium. And thanks to their generosity, I feel more comfortable that I am doing the work that is asked of allies – to raise visibility and awareness. This past week, November 13-19th, was Transgender Awareness Week, although I believe it is our job every week, and every day, as allies to help increase understanding about trans people and the issues members of the community face.
So much has changed in the past ten years since I began memorializing trans folx. Finding photos and content on social media is easier. A lot of media outlets and law enforcement officials are reporting respectfully and accurately. There are more arrests and convictions. Notably, community members and loved ones are much more vocal about justice from the media coverage throughout the investigation, doing a magnificent job of speaking up for victims.
Sadly, the interest of the general community has tapered. I used to see content, mine and others, circulating widely on social media. Now that sharing has decreased and with it the visibility so necessary to remind people of this important work. I struggle to understand how anyone could turn away from this wave of terror in our own backyards, but even when I ask people to reshare content – there is not much response. GLAAD is a noted exception.
I’d like to see more influencers using their platforms to consistently lift up these stories.
Those who do share the posts are typically other trans folx. I can count on one hand the cisgender folx who reliably share memorials of trans people. Fewer outlets regularly cover these stories and the disappearance of LGBTQ and feminist media outlets definitely means fewer resources overall.
Perhaps this is where being a cisgender lesbian blogger proves useful. It is my responsibility to hold up that mirror again and again. And again. This is not the time to turn away from an epidemic that continues unabated even with so many accomplishments and milestones by trans folx across the nation. Losing any member of our community should give us pause, especially when the circumstances are violent. Even more so when the violence is perpetual.
We need to show up at school board meetings and the ballot box, and we must work tirelessly to #ProtectTransKids. Equally imperative is that we honor the lives and acknowledge the deaths of our trans and gender nonconforming neighbors. This is a continuum of violence, but also an opportunity to listen to trans voices as I did ten years ago and respond.
It is important to note that I approached this as a blogger responding to a friend about a unique subset of victims of anti-trans violence. So I use a calendar year rather than the traditional TDOR time frame (October 1 – September 30), I typically do not report when the cause of death is suicide. These are boundaries I’ve created so I can be focused and effective.
Thus, I continue to do the work that my trans friends have asked of me. In ten years, I have written 310 memorial posts for trans and gender nonconforming neighbors. This year, I have documented 36 deaths as of the date of this publication.
Of course I’ve missed folx. Let’s start with the big picture.
So far in 2023, I’ve reported on the deaths of 17 Black Trans Women, 3 Latinx Trans Women, 3 White Trans Women, 1 AAPI Trans Woman, 2 Nonbinary Folx, 1 Black Trans Man, 3 White Trans Men, 1 Latinx Trans Man, and 3 Gender Nonconforming Folx. One person’s identity remains a mystery.
In terms of age, 72% of the deaths I reported on my blog are people 30 years old and under.
Lifting Up Memorials from my blog
- Jasmine ‘Star’ Mack, a Black trans woman killed in the District of Columbia on January 7, 2023. Age 36.
- KC Johnson, a white trans woman killed in Wilmington, North Carolina, on January 13, 2023. Age 27.
- Tortuguita, an Indigenous Venezuelan who was queer and nonbinary killed in the Weelaunee Forest of Georgia on January 18, 2023. Age 26.
- Unique Banks, a Latina trans woman murdered in Chicago, Illinois, on January 23, 2023. Age 21.
- 26-year-old Zachee Imanitwitaho was a Black trans woman, born in the African nation of Rwanda. She immigrated to the US in 2019 and settled in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky. She was killed in Louisville on February 3, 2023. Age 26.
- Maria Jose Rivera Rivera was an immigrant Latina trans woman from El Salvador. She was murdered by a former intimate partner in her Houston, Texas, home on January 21, 2023. She was 22.
- Cashay Henderson was shot to death and left in a burning building in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on February 27, 2023. She was 31 and a Black trans woman.
- Tasiyah ‘Siyah’ Woodland was shot to death in Mechanicsville, Maryland, on March 24, 2023. Siyah was a Black trans woman, just 18 years old.
- Ashley Burton, a Black trans woman of Atlanta, Georgia, was shot to death by a former intimate partner on April 11, 2023. She was 37.
- Also from Atlanta, Georgia, Rasheeda Williams was a Black trans woman and performance artist known as Koko Da Doll and Hollywood Koko, She was killed on April 18, 2023. She was 35.
- Black Trans Man Banko Brown, 24, was shot to death by a retail security guard in San Francisco, California, on April 28, 2023.
- Ashia Davis, also known as Asia Davis, was shot to death at the beginning of Pride Month in Detroit, Michigan on June 2, 2023. She was 34.
- A 29-year-old Afro-Latina trans woman, Chanell Perez Ortiz, was killed in Carolina, a city in northern Puerto Rico, close to the end of Pride month, on June 25, 2023.
- Barely 18 and recently living as an out white trans man, Jacob Williamson was murdered by adults he met online in Pageland, South Carolina, on July 4, 2023.
- Also a white trans man, 21-year-old Camdyn Rider was murdered by his fiance in Winter Haven, Florida on July 21, 2023. Camdyn was pregnant when he was killed.
- Kylie Monali was a 41 year old Nepali trans woman incarcerated in Riverside, California. She was killed on September 7, 2022, but her murder was reported in September 2023.
- Similar to Banko Brown, Black trans woman DéVonnie J’Rae Johnson was homeless in Los Angeles, California when she was shot by a security guard in a grocery store on August 7, 2023. She was 27.
- A 28-year-old Black gender nonconforming person was the victim of a fatal gunshot injury on Thursday, August 17, 2023, in Calumet, Indiana. Thomas “Tom-Tom” Robertson died at the scene, a victim of a shooting targeting someone else.
- Charm Wilson was a 32-year-old Black trans woman living in Cleveland, Ohio. On Thursday September 8, 2023, she was struck and killed by a car in her hometown. The driver was taken into police custody.
- Bre’Asia Bankz was a Black trans woman shot to death in Casa Grande, Arizona on September 5, 2023. She was 27 and a resident of Los Angeles.
- Alexa Alex Andreevna Sokova was a 30-year-old Russian-born model living in Florida. She was killed in Palm Bay, allegedly by her roommate.
- New Orleans-based nonbinary artist YOKO was killed in a hit and run accident on September 19, 2023. They were 30 years old.
- 25-year-old white trans man Dacoda ‘Codii’ Lawrence died on September 5, 2023, at 3:30 AM in Weirton, West Virginia.
- Unidentified Person – Dallas, Texas, in July 2023. Age unknown.
- Originally unidentified, white trans woman Dolli Goins died in Eugene, Oregon, on August 10, 2023. She was 27.
- A Latino trans man, Luis Ángel Díaz Castro was murdered by his partner in San Juan, Puerto Rico on August 12, 2023. He was 22.
- The body of Thaddeus “Tad” Keegan Bradley was found September 9, 2021, in Willits, California, but was not identified until April 2023. Tad was identified as gender nonconforming,
- Sherlyn Marjorie was a Latina trans woman, just 35 years old when she was found dead alongside a road in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on September 26, 2023. She had been missing since September 16, 2023.
- A Black trans woman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin named Chyna Long was shot to death on October 8. She was 30 years old.
- A 30-year-old Black trans woman was found dead in Marvin Gaye Park in Washington, D.C., on Monday, October 2, 2023. Her name was Skylar Harrison.
- Less than two weeks later, the District of Columbia lost a 30-year-old Black trans woman to violence. On Saturday, October 14, 2023, Anee Roberson, also known as A’nee Johnson, was assaulted and left in the street where a vehicle struck her. She later died at a local hospital.
- A Black gender nonconforming person named Dominic Dupree (also known as Dominic Palace) was shot to death on Friday, October 13, 2023, in Chicago. Dominic was 25.
- Less than a week later on October 19, 2023, Lisa Love, a 35-year-old Black trans woman, was shot multiple times while walking home.
- Lovely Page was a 62-year-old Black gender nonconforming person living in Chicago. She was shot to death on August 16, 2023.
- A 26-year-old Black trans woman was shot to death in her Miami home on Monday, October 23, 2023. Her name was London Price.
- Recently, we learned of the shooting death of 26-year-old Black trans woman LaKendra Andrews in Dallas in April 2023, She died from her injuries at the scene.
There are others and there are discrepancies, but the work of lifting up their names and sharing their stories will rectify. One thing I’ve learned working with trans researchers is how much loving care they put into keeping each year’s list accurate as new information arises.
While this piece is in first person, it isn’t my story. It should be a story we share, a thread of compassion and outrage that binds us to the trans community. What began for me as one blog post has become a significant part of my activism. I’m expanding my scope to support TGNC folx whose bodies are unclaimed and others who are not identified. That’s where I was told my energy was also needed.
You can honor the dead by protecting the living.
Yes, start with reading memorials of trans people, sharing their stories, and doing all we can to protect our trans and gender nonconforming neighbors: calling out anti-trans and racist rhetoric when we hear it, lobbying against legislation that targets trans people, protecting trans youth, and encouraging our own friends and communities to do the same.
But we must go further. We must invest in the trans community with our dollars and our time. We must craft intersectional policies that address the fullness of trans experiences. We must resist the onslaught of anti-trans violence every day, not just this one day. We must listen to trans voices. And trust trans people.
Today, we remember. Tomorrow, what will you actually do?
For more information and access to memorials, please consider visiting and supporting:
- Trans Doe Task Force
- Remembering Our Dead TDOR Companion Project
- LAMMP – LGBT+ Accountability for Missing and Murdered Persons
- TransLash Media
- National Center for Transgender Equality Remembrance Report
Sue Kerr is a two time GLAAD award winning Pittsburgh based LGBTQ blogger at Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents. Connect with her on Twitter @pghlesbian24 and on Instagram, Tiktok, Bluesky, and Mastodon at @pghlesbian. Find her blog at pghlesbian.com and on TikTok @pghlesbianblog