We are on the road to participate in Erie Pridefest this weekend when I read this news on Facebook via The Guardian – another trans woman of color had been killed earlier this year, but the information didn’t hit the news until now. The reason? Misgendering by the police and the media.
Her name was Keyshia Blige. She was 33 years old and had recently begun transitioning, according to her friend Sasha Love.
In the early morning hours of March 7, Keyshia Blige, a 33-year-old transgender woman, was driving a friend in her car through Aurora, Ill., “when several shots were fired,” reports U.K. newspaper The Guardian.
One shot hit Blige in the shoulder, and though she attempted to drive herself to the hospital, she eventually lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a Jeep, according to a March Chicago Tribune report that identified the victim as “a man” and by her male name.
Keyshia died on March 7. Today is August 29. That’s a six month lag in recognizing and acknowledging her actual identity. Keyshia’s legal paperwork used her old name and male pronouns. But given that we just this week learned of the previous death of Jasmine Collins under similar circumstances of misgendering, it highlights that as awful as the death toll of trans women of color is – it is absolutely underreported.
So here’s what I found out about Keyshia. She was 33 and she lived in Naperville, Illinois. I have family in Naperville so that hit me in the gut a little bit. Keyshia graduated from community college with a degree in accounting and states on her FB page that she worked for Chase. Keyshia is from Aurora, Illinois. She posted this proud statement of her identity:
MS.KEYSHIA J.BLIGE ONE OF THE BADDEST BITCH ON THE LAND I CALL IT FOR THE BIG GIRLS… PLEASE TAKE YOUR NOTE GIRLS!!! I’M THE C.E.O. & FOUNDER OF DESTINY CHILD’S FOUNDATION. ARE THEME IS “I WILL SURVIVE”. I’M A GIRL’S DREAM & A BOY’S CONFESSIONS. I’M BACK ON THE SCENE SO FALL BACK GIVE ME 10 FEET… YOU KNOW WHO I’M TALKING TOO!!! IT’S ABOUT ME THIS TIME AROUND!?. JUST BE REAL YOU WILL NEVER BE ME. WHEN YOU SEE ME IN THE STREET SAY SOMETHING…
Keyshia experienced the heightened indignity of simply not being acknowledged even in death. I want to amplify her voice, her words, her story. Sasha took it upon herself to right that wrong by reaching out to The Guardian, but what on earth do you do six months after the fact?
‘When you see me in the street say something’ is horribly prophetic and a cry to which we must respond.
More from Sasha:
Love said that Blige first began realizing her identity once they started performing in drag in the late-2010s. They had both been attracted to it not only because they liked to dress up, but because they had learned how to lip-synch while growing up in their church choir.
“When she would dress up, she would tell me ‘I love being Keyshia. I want to be Keyshia,” Love said. The two performed at weekly shows outside the city of Chicago, where Love was the host, too.
But Blige’s attitude changed on 24 June 2011 when Blige was the victim of a hate crime in a neighboring city, when four men attacked her for being gay – hitting her 30 times, – and leaving her with nerve damage to the face.
Read more about Keyshia’s life at The Guardian.
How do we address an epidemic of violence against trans women, especially trans women of color if we don’t even know the victims and/or the survivors? There’s no national tracking system and few best practices with regard to reporting. But this has clearly reached crisis proportions and must be addressed.
I keep writing that. I keep saying their names and insisting that Gay Inc step forward. But I don’t hear any response or plans. Tuesday was a National Day of Action for Black Trans Lives and that’s an important step. But those of us in the LGBTQ community who are allies to the trans community must insist that resources are allocated now.
- Papi Edwards, 20, Louisville, January 9
- Lamia Beard, 30, Norfolk on January 17
- Ty Underwood, 24, Tyler TX on January 26
- Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, LA on January 31
- Taja de Jesus, 36, San Fran February 1
- Penny Proud, 21, New Orleans February 10
- Bri Golec, 22, Akron on February 13
- Kristina Grant Infiniti, 47, Miami on February 15
- Keyshia Blige, 33, Naperville IL on March 7
- London Chanel, 21, Philadelphia on May 18
- Mercedes Williamson, 17, Alabama on May 30
- Jasmine Collins, 32, Kansas City MO, June 23
- India Clarke, 25, Tampa on July 22
- K.C. Haggard, 66, Fresno on July 23
- Amber Monroe, 20, Detroit on August 8
- Ms. Shade Schuler, 22, Dallas, date of death unknown
- Ashton O’Hara, 25, Detroit, July 14
- Kandis Capri, 35, Phoenix, August 11
- Elisha Walker, 25, Smithfield NC, date of death unknown
- Tamara Dominguez, 36, Kansas City MO, August 17