This morning I learned about the brutal murder of a young trans youth. Please take note that this post contains some graphic details, misgendering, and links to sites with similar content.
Ally Steinfeld was 17 years old from Missouri. She identified on her Facebook account as female, using her birth name as well as Ally Lee Steinfeld. She was a kid with a complicated identity and a documented struggle with her identity. Her parents describe her as a male, using her childhood male nickname and acknowledging that she sometimes identified as female. I’m sharing this much detail because it is simply unclear to me what Ally’s preferences were with regard to her gender identity and even her name. I’m going to use Ally and she/her pronouns.
But she’s also the 21st trans identified individual to be murdered in the United States in a particularly heinous crime. Her body was recovered from a farm outside of Licking, Texas County in Missouri belonging to 24-year-old Briana Calderas whom along with 18 year-old Isis Schauer and 18 year-old Andrew Vrba are facing various homicide charges in Steinfeld’s death.
Vrba told authorities he stabbed Steinfield in the living room of the home and with the help of the girls, wrapped up Steinfield’s body, moved it outside and burned it. According to a probable cause statement, the women traveled to Walmart in Houston and Mountain Grove to buy items to aid in the burning.
Ally was originally from nearby Licking, Missouri. The entire family had relocated to St. Louis. She recently returned to the area and was living in Houston, Missouri. She disappeared on September 1, failing to return calls or messages from family and friends. The Steinfield family began searching on their own using social media and information from friends. They went to local law enforcement with information about Calderas and Vrba which led authorities to the property where they found remains believed to be Ally’s.
Ally’s 18th birthday was on September 9. The Steinfield family has unconfirmed reason to think she was dead before that date which the autopsy results may confirm.
A cellular telephone belonging to Steinfeld and a knife were recovered at the property.
Facebook messages between the women gave officers a break in the teen’s death, which apparently occurred Sept. 3 – six days before Steinfeld’s birthday.
There are more details that I simply can’t bear to share here. Please note the following links will lead to grisly information as well as some misgendering. Police have already announced that they plan to arrest more people. There’s no clear motive as of yet, except the general expendability and vulnerability of trans folks.
This is a grisly, horrifying story as are all those listed below. Maybe it is me, but it does seem that the violence against trans teens can be especially horrifyingly vicious? I think about 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson, 17-year-old Gwen Araujo, and 17-year-old Ava Le’Ray. If you look at the list below, so many are so young – most under 30. And let’s not forget that Missouri was the battleground for a brave young transgender teen who led the battle with public schools to use the bathroom aligned with her gender identity. Her name is Lila Perry and she’s now 18.
There is also the reality that the alleged murders are also young. How do groups of teenagers engage in such barbaric atrocities? It’s not remotely a crime of passion or impulse which while also horrifying is not so removed from human experiences. But torture and worse are difficult to wrap our heads around. Sometimes that becomes even more of an excuse to bury our heads in the sand about this epidemic of violence facing the trans community. We need to simplify everything into manageable binaries, especially gender identity. And our desire to do so is hurting our youth and other members of our community.
My heart aches for the Steinfeld family, especially the younger children who are going to have to contend with a lot of trauma. But I’m also acutely aware of the fact that Ally is not an outlier. Her experiences, her expressions of loneliness and a desire to be pretty, to be loved, to be valued are typical both for youth and for trans youth in particular. She is not alone in those vulnerable experiences and it is our duty as LGBTQ adults, as allies, as human beings to acknowledge that Ally and every young trans person should be safe and have supports & resources beyond Facebook or Snapchat to explore and grow in their identities.
Rest in power, Ally. You deserved to grow up and grow into your self in all of your beauty and strengths.
This post has been updated to reflect Ally’s middle name of Lee.
Mesha Caldwell – Mississippi (January 4), 41 years old
- Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow – Sioux Falls (January 7), 28 years old
- JoJo Striker – Toledo, Ohio (February 8), 23 years old
- KeKe Collier – Chicago (February 21), 24 years old
- Chyna Gibson – New Orleans (February 25), 31 years old
- Ciara McElveen – New Orleans (February 27), 26 years old
- Jaquarrius Holland (Brown) – Monroe, Louisiana (February 19), 18 years old
- Alphonza Watson – Baltimore (March 22), 38 years old
- Chay Reed – Miami-Dade (April 19), 28 years old
- Brenda Bostick – New York City (April 25), 59 years old
- Sherrell Faulkner – Charlotte, NC (May 16), 46 years old
- Kenne McFadden – San Antonio (June 6), 27 years old
- Josie Berrios – Ithaca, NY (June 13), 28 years old
- Ava Le’Ray Barrin – Athens, GA (June 25), 17 years old
- Ebony Monroe – Lynchburg, VA (July 2), 28 years old
- Tee Tee Dangerfield – Atlanta, GA (July 31), 32 years old
- Gwynevere River Song – Waxahachie, TX (August 12), 26 years old
- Kiwi Herring – St. Louis (August 22), 30 years old
- Kashmire Redd – Gates, NY ( September 4), 28 years old
- Derricka Banner – Charlotte, NC (September 12), 26 years old
- Ally Steinfeld – Texas County, MO (September 4*), 17 years old – date still to be confirmed
I usually list Western Pennsylvania resources for the transgender community. In this post, I’m going to share youth oriented resources. My heart feels like it is breaking this morning as I read through Ally’s Facebook page. Their posts about wanting to simply be pretty, to be loved, to connect are heartwrenching. I want you to invest in leadership to support our young people. This is not comprehensive. I urge you to donate, to volunteer, to like the FB pages and more. Let your outrage fuel your engagement to protect other trans youth.
- THRIVE Pa
- Dreams of Hope
- Center for Equality (formerly the GLCC of Pgh)
- The Trevor Project
- PFLAG Pgh (for parents)
- Pennsylvania Youth Congress
- TransLife Line