The Trans Obituaries Project: Honoring the Trans Women of Color Lost in 2019
The Trans Obituaries Project: Honoring the Trans Women of Color Lost in 2019
This year, we've lost far too many souls to violence. As their deaths were shared with the world, their humanity was lost -- reducing them to tragic statistics, empty platitudes, and talking points. We felt it important to elevate the group who is most impacted by the epidemic: transgender women of color. Now, we honor those who have been reported as victims of violence with the obituaries they deserved.
This piece was originally published in this year's Out100 issue, out on newstands 12/10. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, or Nook beginning 11/21.
February 6, 1987 - January 6, 2019
Hope Hull, AL
A quiet storm of a woman, Dana was simultaneously "very private, sweet" and a "people person." With her thick country accent, she exhibited Southern hospitality to anyone she encountered. Dana's childhood friend, Demarcus Simmons, vividly remembers her as cool and laid-back. His favorite memory is riding around town in Martin's late-90's-edition gold Nissan Maxima, blasting Pretty Ricky, Jackie O, and Ying Yang Twins through her speakers. Another friend, Cruz Burnett, says she loved Aaliyah and the film The Players Club. A hard worker, Dana's jobs at a local casino and, later, a Family Dollar put her in regular contact with community. She was beloved by all.
"Dana didn't bother anybody, period. Everybody liked Dana and if they didn't, it was because they didn't know her," Burnett says. "Dana was very quiet and reserved for the most part."
Dana's legacy lives on through her parents, Orlando and Jacqueline Martin; sister, Oriyanna J. Martin; friends, Cruz Burnett, Brittney Hill, Demarcus Simmons, and Stasha Nicole; grandparents, Ruby Collins and John T. Scollock; aunts and uncles, Evelyn S. Easterly, Annette and Malcolm Moorer, and Joe T. Scullock; great-uncles and great-aunts, Callie M. Johnson, Ailean Martin, Carrie and Willie Whiting, Lucille S. Jackson, and Larry and Louise Long; her pet Romeo Martin; and a host of aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and community members.
April 6, 1984--March 25, 2019
Jazzaline was an energetic, caring, and bubbly person who always tried "to put a smile on somebody's face and help someone if she could" according to her dear friend, Tamesha Prewitt. After meeting via a mutual friend in 1999, Prewitt -- another North Memphis girl -- became a mentor of sorts, being four years Jazzaline's senior. Early in their friendship, she set and accomplished the goal of graduating from cosmetology school and becoming a hairstylist. From then on, Jazzaline's passion was to whip and slay curls -- and her friends never shied away from her services. Sometimes she discounted them for trans community members who couldn't afford the full price.
"As far as making girls feel better about themselves? I don't know if she even looked at it like that, but [she knew] when your hair is done, you have a better feeling about yourself," Prewitt says. "You just feel more confident, you feel you can go and make things happen. She gave a lot girls confidence that they probably didn't have at first."
Prewitt's most cherished memory is of her and Jazzaline lip-syncing along to India.Arie's "Video" in the car. Ever the motivator, she was known for trusting the power of perseverance and ambition. "One of her favorite quotes was, 'Go, try it.' She was a soldier. She believed what she believed in, and she would fight for what she believed in," Prewitt says. "Jazzaline, I love you and I'll see you one day."
Jazzaline's legacy lives on through her parents; brother; friend, Tamesha Prewitt; and a host of community friends in the Memphis area.
*Jazzaline's cause of death has been determined as natural causes by Kansas City Police Department.
Lorrissa Ashanti Carmon
June 8, 1991--March 30, 2019
Lorissa was loved. A month before passing, Lorrissa accepted a marriage proposal from her doting boyfriend of six years, Phillip Williams. The two met through a mutual friend after leaving abusive relationships, and crafted a storybook love out of a hopeless place. As their partnership grew, Lorrissa transformed from a young woman who had become estranged from family to waking up next to the love of her life each day.
"[Our relationship] was always about happiness, never sadness. We were just right for each other," Williams says. "Her personality was genuine and off the scale. It was just something I'd been hoping for all my life and it was the same for her in reverse."
Early on, Lorrissa declared the "Love Like This" by Faith Evans the perfect upbeat song to describe how she felt about her Prince Charming. With Williams' support, they eventually moved into an apartment of their own and she gradually began to find employment outside of sex work. Within the month of her passing, she would have started a new career as an airline stewardess.
"I miss her so deeply," Williams shares through tears. "She just wanted to be equal and accounted for as a human being." He misses her "heart of gold" the most.
Lorrissa was followed in passing by her friend Zoe Spears, another Black trans woman. Her legacy lives on through her fiance, Phil Williams; aunt, Deborah Carmon; her father, Gary Carmon; friends, Aniyah Dash and Keyonna; her cat, Lorissa, and a host of family and friends.
Claire Legato Williams
November 9, 1997-- May 14, 2019
With her big, Disney eyes and an inviting smile, Claire knew how to put a smile on your face--and how to put on a show. The self-identified thespian enjoyed a stint with the Cleveland Public Theatre's Student Theatre Enrichment Program (STEP) in her youth.
According to her friend Desirae Avery, Claire taught her how to turn any bad situation into a better one. "She was awesome to have around," Avery shares. "She really was a natural-born-mother type." Her friend fondly remembers how attached she was to Willow Smith's "I Am Me," and how it helped her come to terms with her gender identity.
Claire's legacy lives on through her mother, Bridgette Brown; father, Talbert Glenn; six siblings, Heavenly, Jim'Maya, Bridgette, Jymar, and Destinee Brown, and Kel'vontay Bluford; three step-siblings: Shontia, Sommer, and Jaimie; 10 nieces and nephews; aunt Nekia Williams; two uncles, Raoullo (Octavia) Cloud and Deon'te (Tiff) Williams; grandmother Tracie Lynch; and a host of family and friends.
Muhlaysia “Lay” Booker
January 14, 1997-- May 18, 2019
When all eyes were on her, Muhlaysia Booker proved to be fearless. With dreams of becoming a broadcast journalist and a larger-than-life Facebook presence, she regaled followers with "Story Time," her own report of the world around her. Her childhood friend, Jessica Anderson remembers her as a "ball of energy" and "herself regardless of who she was around, but she was also very nurturing and encouraging, naturally." Just weeks before her passing, she gained a national platform after being assaulted and fiercely spoke out at a rally to bring attention to the epidemic of violence plaguing trans women of color.
"This time it was me, the next time it'll be someone else close to you. This time I can stand before you, whereas in other scenarios, we're at a memorial," she said. "Our time to seek justice is now. If not now, when?"
Booker's legacy lives on through her mother, Stephanie Houston; father, Peirre Booker; older sister, Pierresha Booker; grandmother, Debra Booker; best friend, Jessica Anderson, and a host of cousins, loving community members, and adoring Facebook followers. In honor of her legacy, Houston founded the Muhlaysia Booker Foundation, "dedicated to providing housing, advocacy, emotional support, counseling, employment resources, and training to transgender women." For information, visit muhlaysiabookerfoundation.org.
Michelle “Tameka” Washington
December 22, 1978-- May 19, 2019
Strong-willed and fearless are among the first words used to describe Tameka by her close friend, Sharron Cooks. The pair met 25 years ago in the heart of Philadelphia's nightlife, and became chosen sisters. "We experienced so much of life together," Cooks shares. "We were inseparable."
Tameka was a worldly woman who dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. She loved to read about different cultures, make jewelry, and collect rare stones and crystals. An avid animal lover, Tameka had a soft spot for cats and birds. "She always let the birds fly around her apartment because they weren't made to be caged," Cooks says.
And alongside her air of groundedness was a hilarious prankster spirit.
Michelle's legacy lives on through her mother; sisters; friend, Cooks; and a host of other family members and friends.
Paris Laron Cameron
July 17, 1998-- May 25, 2019
Whether it was a romantic or platonic relationship, Paris loved hard, says her lover-turned-friend Jordan Banks. Despite ups and downs while dating, he insists that "Paris was my everything for three years. We lived together, argued, made up, fell out, made up, but never really separated."
Banks goes on to describe her as "overprotective and very sensitive, but a fighter too." Always down for a good time, Paris enjoyed hanging out with friends, listening to music, and twerking and voguing her buns off. She worked as a retail clerk at the Detroit Zoo, but dreamed of one day opening her own business and was on a journey to figure out exactly what kind.
Paris' legacy lives on through her mother, Lakenya Carter; sisters, Keita Carter, India Johnson, and Amara Neal; aunt, Tracy Carter; cousins, Trevon Carter and Lemon; chosen mother, Bridget Dawson; first chosen mother, Sunshine Johnson; Banks, and a host of other family, friends, and community members.
October 4, 1991-- June 7, 2019
Layleen Cubilette-Polanco was a character, in short. Known to light up a room, she loved amusing her family and friends--whether it meant singing in an absurd tone to elicit giggles and smiles or strutting in front of them like an acclaimed supermodel. Her sister, Melania Brown, also remembers her as simultaneously humorous and "very sweet and caring."
"If she didn't know you and she felt like you we were going through some things and if she could help, she would extend her hand out," she says. "Whenever she walked into a room, it could be dull and as soon as she stepped foot into that room it just sparked off. She was just full of life."
Brown remembers Layleen's supportive nature as aspiring and believes that her love of people and animals would have helped her be a great doctor. Other loved ones remember her wanting to help vulnerable people, expressing interest in either being a nurse for elders or a correctional officer, ostensibly to take care of incarcerated folks. Overall, her greatest goal was to turn any difficult situation into a positive.
"I would like for people to learn from Layleen's story to just be yourself. Layleen was never scared to be herself. Be yourself," she says. "It does not matter how much pressure this world gives you, never let anyone mistake who you are. You be exactly who you are, and that's it,
Layleen's legacy lives on through her mother, Aracelis Cubilette; sister, Melania Brown; brother Salomon Cubilette; nieces, Aliyah Brown and Isyss Cubilette; community mother, Ashley "Leslie" Chico; her best friends, Amanda Collazo and Ramon Monclus; the House of Xtravaganza, including her mother, Gisele, and her two daughters, Christina Yates and Alana Ramos, and a host of cousins and loving community members.
Johana “Joa” Medina Léon
March 6, 1994--June 1, 2019
El Paso, TX
Joa's community in El Salvador had high hopes for her. The calm and friendly woman was on her way to becoming a nurse, and those who knew her admired her dedication to her studies. Victoria Castro, a friend and fellow community organizer, met Joa when they both were advocating for the Salvadoran trans community. "The times that we spent together were focused on transition, prevention, and health in relation to the transgender community," Castro says. Later, she would decide to seek asylum in the United States, carrying with her the loving support of her mother and boyfriend, Diego.
Joa's legacy lives on through her mother; boyfriend, Diego; friend, Castro; and a host of family, friends, and community members.
October 30, 1992-- June 1, 2019
After being adopted as a young child when her mother passed away, Chynal took on a quest to reconnect with her biological family in adulthood. During that time, she lived with and became inseparable from her cousin, Tamaya Lindsey. They always enjoyed their time together, cracking jokes and playing pranks on each other.
"I could just see [her] right here, right now, asking me dumb questions just to annoy me," Lindsey says. "And then [she] would just giggle like, 'I know the answer, I just wanted to make you mad.'"
When Lindsey founded Kids Are Truly Special (KATS), a nonprofit to assist homeless teens, Chynal expressed a desire to become a mentor for LGBTQ+ youth. "[She] said, 'One day I'm going to help you," Lindsey shares. "I'm going to work with the young kids, so that they don't end up making the mistakes I've made."
Chynal's legacy lives on through Lindsey and a host of family, friends, and community members.
August 11, 1995-- June 5, 2019
Lumber Bridge, NC
Chanel was a "big baby" who wouldn't hurt a fly, according to her mother, Brenda Scurlock. With her bubbly personality and outspokenness, Chanel was endlessly supportive of those she loved. "She was a friendly person," Scurlock says. "She always was more of a friend to her friends than they were to her." Scurlock remembers her daughter as being especially helpful at home. With a passion for anything pertaining to fashion, Chanel cherished her retail job at the local mall. She also excelled at makeup artistry, and wasn't afraid to show off her skills.
Chanel's legacy lives on through her mother, Brenda Scurlock (Edward); five sisters, Kelia McNeill (Jarques), Aaliyah, Khayah, Tyionna and Cara Jackson; great grandmother; Mazrine Jackson; one god mother, Debora Galloway; one nephew, Messiah Jackson; six aunts, Deloise Matos, Virginia Scurlock, Angela Bruton (Leon), Mary Scurlock; Annie Scurlock and Rosalyn Jackson; six uncles, Willie McLean (Doris), Johnny Scurlock (Evelyn), Isaiah Scurlock, Henry Scurlock, Harley Scurlock and Rodney Jackson; and a host of cousins and friends.
June 18, 1995 -- June 13, 2019
Fairmount Heights, MD
When Zoe began visiting Casa Ruby as a young adult, she immediately latched onto longtime community advocate Ruby Corado. "One of the first things she said to me was 'I want to transition, and I want you to be my mother,'" Corado says. As they grew closer, Zoe would endearingly break the rules at the organization, like jovially running around the drop-in center semi-naked. Zoe had dreams of becoming a lawyer to support people dealing with mistreatment. "She wanted to defend herself and others. Security is what she was looking for," Corado recalls.
Zoe's legacy lives on through her mother; sister; chosen mother, Corado; and a host of family, friends, and community members.
Denali Berries Stuckey
July 1, 1990 -- July 20, 2019
With her unique personality, Denali was known as a "people's person" who could automatically make a friend out of nearly anyone. Her cousin Ron'Rico Judon misses her "golden smile" the most. She loved listening to music and dancing, often doing the latter at the least expected times. Denali also loved children and enjoyed the quality time she got to spend with her nieces and nephews through babysitting. "Her living her truth authentically and unapologetically inspired me in more ways than she would ever think," Judon says.
Denali's legacy lives on through her mother, Andrea Stuckey; father, Darrell Brown; grandmother Catherine Brown; godfather Barron Lee; Judon and a host of family and friends.
April 2, 1997 -- July 30, 2019
"You always knew if Tracy was in the building," says Courtney Sellers, the executive director of Montrose Grace Place. "She was really tall, loud, boisterous, and funny." Seeking support as a homeless youth, Tracy's "big energy" left an indelible impact on all those who worked at and frequented Montrose Grace. Tracy also expressed interest in becoming a drag performer: "She did what she wanted to do. She loved to dance," Sellers says. "We would put on music and the youth would just twerk all over the place and she loved that."
Tracy's legacy lives on through her mother and a host of family, friends, community members, and Montrose Grace Place staff and volunteers who cared for her.
July 8, 2002--September 2, 2019
Seventeen-year-old Bailey was on track to start her senior year of high school and figure out her path in life. Her older sister, Taylor Reeves, says she sometimes spoke about being a doctor or lawyer. "Bailey just had so many things she wanted to do," Reeves shares. A creative, intelligent, and straightforward girl, she was known to tell people how things were and how the world should be. With a generous spirit, she relished in teaching beauty tricks to her loved ones. "She was just a wild child, a free-spirited child," Reeves says. "Bailey didn't have any fear."
Bailey's legacy lives on through her mother; father; siblings, Thomas, Taylor, Savannah; half-siblings; cousins, including Chase; best friends, Lorenzo, Leah, Makayla, and Regina; and a host of family, friends, and community members.
September 28, 1997--July 31, 2019
Kiki dreamed of becoming a fashion icon and always wore a head-turning outfit. "[She] could be going to the store down the street, and [her] hair and nails were going to look good," says Rhonda Comer, her mother. With a caring heart, Kiki was constantly reassuring Comer that she would take care of her throughout her life. If ever Comer were distraught, Kiki would make her smile. Inspired by Kiki's experience, Comer has dedicated herself to advocating for other LGBTQ+ youth. "I'm working on building a safe haven," Comer says. "I think it's so important that the parents be there for them."
Kiki's legacy lives on through her mother, Comer; father, Steven Alexander Fantroy (Catina); sisters: Johniyah, Armani, Rayshell, Tiesha, Vernisha; brothers: Stephon, Alexander, Shemar, George, Deshon, Raheem, Cortney; grandparents: Patty Williams (Clarence), Garfield Leatherwood, Jr. (Flora); Aunts: Martena, Daphney, Kizzy; uncles: Roger, Jason, Anthony Jr., Ralph, Clarence Jr.; godmother, Michele Flint; special teacher, Wylene Stukey; best friend, Brittany Wilson; goddaughter, Aniyah Wilson; her adopted family: Theresa Higgenbothan, Taniesha, Chelsea, Kayla; and a host of other relatives and friends.
Elisha Chanel Stanley
March 10, 1973--September 16, 2019
Elisha was a vision of success for other trans women in Washington, D.C., according to close friend Ruby Corado. As a therapist at MBI Health Services LLC, "her passion was to encourage others to change," Corado says. "She would always say, 'No matter what, love life, because that's all we have.'" In her pursuit of joy, she began traveling all around the world. "She [went] from being a young kid with a lot of barriers, to having a master's and becoming a provider and mentor," Corado says. "She wanted others to experience that as well."
Elisha's legacy lives on through Corado and a host of family, friends, and community members.
November 1, 1989--September 20, 2019
Traveling the world was at the top of Itali's bucket list. "Itali wanted to go everywhere," says her mother Catonia Dortsch, remembering their daily phone calls. "She'd say, 'Momma, I think I want to go here.'" Dortsch's fun, outgoing daughter never got the chance to leave the United States, but enjoyed exciting domestic trips--and her favorites were to California, Florida, New York, and North Carolina. Dortsch also remembers her daughter's love for animals and helping people. "I don't think anybody could ever be like Itali, because she was one of a kind," she says.
Itali's legacy lives on through her mother, KaTonia Dortch; stepfather, Jeffrey Dortch; grandmother, Christine Mosley; brothers, Timothy Jr. (Shalarrium) Fields and Kenneth (Shannon) Marlowe; aunts, Derenda Corder, Stephanie Blacksmith, Tonya Marlowe, Michelle Rucker Seymour, Teresa & Catrina Thompson; uncles, Sean and Tevin Thompson; nieces, Timya Fields and Kahiyah Marlowe; nephews, Timothy Fields III and Chase Fields; cousins, NaTasha Mchaney, Torrye Guinn, Victoria Anderson, James and Shetonya Hunter, DeShawn Cotton, Gregory Mchaney, Brandon and Patrick Marlowe, Chasity Williams; friends, Zariam Shuler, Lia Williams, Brittany Anthony, Jamonta and LaShunda Moore, Nicole Prince, Richard Dennis, Jalessa Jennings and Asia Stevenson.
March 2, 1987--June 25, 2019
Kansas City, MO
Brooklyn was a star of her own making. There's a photograph of the thirty-something with a coquettish pose, a striking platinum blonde wig, and a daintily poised hand near her mouth, serving a fierce look for the camera. In a BuzzFeed interview, Brooklyn's close friend Raven Johnson remembers her as "outgoing, happy-go-lucky. She always liked helping people, doing what she can." Johnson also shares that Brooklyn had dreams of motivating others to accomplish their greatest goals as a life coach.
Brooklyn's legacy lives on through Johnson and a host of family, friends, and community members;
Bee Love Slater
September 11, 1997--September 4, 2019
Bee was a fairly popular sweet girl who "transitioned early and was in a great place," says her friend Antorris Williams in an interview with Out. He also remembers her as "a good spirit, a prankster, a joker." The self-proclaimed "brown-skinned baddie" had dreams of branching out from her small community in Southern Florida. "[She] was so precious, loving, and kind," said another friend, Tyesha Jones in an interview with Insider. "[She] didn't mess with anyone. All [she] wanted to do was level up in life and live."
Bee's legacy lives on through Williams, Jones, and a host of family, friends, and community members.
Bre’onna “BB” Hill
March 24, 1989--October 14, 2019
Kansas City, MO
Loud, outspoken, and fun is how BB's friend Tre'Shawn Seymour remembers her. "If we were having a sad day, she would just jump on you, kiss all on you, and start telling you jokes," she says. "She had a good spirit and good soul." The pair met when BB was a teenager, but grew closer years later when Seymour became a mentor of sorts for her medical transition and burgeoning career in adult entertainment. "She was Black T-Girls Model of the Month for two months consecutively," Seymour shares with pride. "She was one of the girls that had a lot of potential."
BB's legacy lives on through Seymour, Chris Wade, Miss Rudy, and a host of friends and community members.
Pebbles LaDime Doe
November 16, 1994--August 4, 2019
One glimpse at Pebbles and you can tell she was just another twenty-something enjoying her youth and trying to find her place in the world. Her bright smile and inviting eyes will endure far beyond her years on this earth. She loved cracking jokes whether online or in person, and is remembered by many for her distinctive laugh. Her family, especially her mother Debra Saab, loved her dearly and has been elevating her story in the media, demanding justice on her behalf.
Pebbles' legacy lives on through her mother, Saab, aunt, Karen Elias; and a host of family, friends, and community members.
May 8, 1964--July 27, 2019
Known as a maternal figure to numerous Charlotte community members, Bubba Walker is remembered as skillful, kind, and loving by Caitlin Clarabelle in interviews with The Charlotte Observer and Planet Transgender. They have fond memories of the older woman with distinctive wide eyes, a cool smirk, and a wide smile. "She was always smiling and was a people person," they said. "She lit up everywhere she went and everyone loved her." Clarabelle goes on to share that Bubba was sometimes a reserved person, but she was "one of those people who was really fun to be around."
Bubba's legacy lives on through a host of family, friends, and community members.
*Since publication, it has been clarifed by Charlotte Police Department that Bubba's death is not being investigated as a homocide.