Since this article was originally published, new information has come to light regarding the gender identity of Ja’Leyah-Jamar Berryman, a Kansas City homicide victim who was alleged to be transgender. Friends, relatives, and community members say the deceased was not trans but a gender nonconforming man.
His name was reportedly Jamagio Jamar Berryman. In a 10-minute video uploaded by the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Our Place KC, those who knew him say Berryman was a “loving man, a loving father, a loving son, a loving brother, [and] a loving uncle.”
“[W]e just want to clarify to the public as to [who] he really was — and that was a man, not a transgender woman,” said an unnamed relative.
Berryman’s mother said focusing on her son’s gender identity misses the point.
“Everybody wants to make this about transgender, not transgender,” she said. “God loves everybody. Everybody deserves to be loved, no matter what you are, how you choose to live your life. At the end of the day, you’re still someone’s child, someone’s father, someone’s mother. No one deserves this. Everybody deserves love.”
Two sources separately confirmed to out that Berryman was a queer man and did not identify as a transgender woman.
Out has put out a request for comment to the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, which initially reported that Berryman was transgender, and will update if their team responds. As this story is developing, more details will be added as they come in.
Ja’Leyah-Jamar Berryman is the 19th transgender person to be murdered in the United States this year and the second in Kansas City.
Details on the killing are still coming in, but police report that Berryman was shot and killed on Friday, possibly by someone with whom she was in a relationship. The violence occurred outside of a local Dollar Tree store where Berryman worked.
As friends and family try to piece together the details of what happened, police and media added to the confusion by misgendering Berryman. Initial reports indicated that Berryman was a man. Most — but not all — family and friends have affirmed her name as Ja’Leyah, using female terminology and pronouns to identify her.
An exception is Ronnie Gates, a friend and former boyfriend of Berryman, who said that Berryman’s five-year-old daughter “keeps [saying] I want my daddy, where my daddy at?” He continued, “And it's just like, how do you answer that question to a five-year-old?”
In a statement, the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project confirmed the victim’s gender identity and pronouns. “As we hold space to remember and uplift Ja’Leyah,” the organization wrote on Facebook, “we must also recognize the factors at play that contribute to the dramatically increased risk of violence that trans women of color — especially Black trans women — face everyday.”
Police have released photos of a person of interest in the killing, as well as an image of a car believed to be involved: a 2006 Pontiac G6 with Kansas license plate 038 LXW.
A makeshift memorial has developed near the site of the shooting and mourners gathered this week for a vigil in the Kansas City area. "Once that trigger is pulled, it's too late,” Jennifer Gibson, Berryman's mother, reportedly said at the memorial. “You can't go back. Put the guns down.”
Berryman’s death is only the most recent killing of a Black trans woman in Kansas City, following Brooklyn Lindsey earlier this year. Lindsey had been experiencing difficulty finding housing and work.
As the KCAVP wrote after Berryman’s death, these deaths shine a light on the fact that Black trans women in the area continue to face daily challenges to their very existence. “Restrictions on basic needs and services like housing, employment, safe streets, healthcare, and protection under the law are just some barriers that put our sisters in harm’s way daily,” the organization said.
“The discriminatory and violent systems that perpetuate violence against transgender women of color are a direct result of bias from within and outside our own communities,” KCAVP added.