What Happened to Jessi Hart, a 42-year-old Trans Woman Killed in Oregon?

Jessi Hart Oregon trans woman
Jessi Hart (Sam Gehrke) via the Williamette Week

Jessi Hart, a 42-year-old white trans woman, was killed in Banks, Oregon in early October. Her body was discovered on October 17, 2021.

According to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, her body was found in the woods outside Banks, a small town about 25 miles west of Portland, Oregon. Detectives suspect foul play in her death and believe she had died about two weeks before authorities found her body.

After moving from program to program, couch to couch, Jessi and her son were living out of her Saab. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office says Hart’s black Saab was recovered, but it’s unclear whether it was discovered near her body. It had been spray-painted white. The sheriff’s office is asking anyone who had contact with Hart in the past few months to come forward and talk to investigators.

Jessi began her transition in 2016, a decision she claimed cost her the family business and even contact with her family. She had an adult daughter who lives in Portland and a teen son, Caleb, who was in her care. Jessi was in a relationship with Audrey Savage.

Earlier this year, Jessi and Caleb participated in a feature series exploring the lives of Portlanders living in motel rooms published in Willamette Week.After the article was published, she was removed from the program and eventually ended up living in her 2006 Saab. It is unclear if Jessi’s identity or her frankness about her experiences tied into the disruption of her housing.

The reporter who interviewed her for the original piece, Sophie Peel, shared this in a tribute posted in the Willamette Week:

Jessi Hart lived a difficult life. She felt that people looked at her differently because she had transitioned, and felt that she never passed well enough in her new body. She spoke frankly about poverty and its attendant miseries, which she did not sugarcoat.

At one point this summer, Hart said she was struggling to maintain hope living in her car. This reporter sent her a text with hopes that her trials would ebb.

“I wish I could believe that statement about ebb and flows,” Hart texted back, “but I’m just getting a tide coming in that is just slow enough to keep me standing on my tip toes so I don’t drown, but not going out so I can relax.”

I reached out to Peel asking about Caleb’s well-being and plans for final arrangements.  Police are still looking for information about Jessi and her car.

She got smacked in the face by poverty and housing insecurity, and then she was left dead in the woods unrecognizable, whatever that means, waiting for two weeks to be found and acknowledged.

Where are her flowers? Where is the GoFundMe and the funeral and the balloon release? What happened to her kids? Her cat? We know more about the fate of her car than her family. Was anyone looking for her during that two week period?

Jessi posted this on her Facebook profile in late September, her final public post:

Imperfectly perfect, flawed with flawless love, I have seen the depths of sorrow, I have felt the heights of happiness that most dream about. I am the constant, I am a force some strive to restrain, some try to harness, the rest try to emulate. I am valuable to those who know me, and the few who dont want me to feel worthless. I can survive alone, but I feel I’m barely hanging on.

Jessi is the forty-third trans, nonbinary or gender nonconforming person reported killed in 2021. Thirty-eight of these neighbors have been BIPOC. 29 of these victims were under the age of 30. That we know of, as many deaths go unreported or unacknowledged. Since January 1, 2021, there has been a murder every 7 days on average. I also noticed that Jessi at age 42 is the fourth oldest victim of this terror campaign in 2021.

Rest in power, Jessi. Your determination to live your truth and propel your children to do the same is a fine legacy, but one ended too soon. We failed you repeatedly. I fear what you experienced in your final hours only amplifies the low value we placed on your life, a shame we have to live with. It is not your shame. Your love for your son, your resiliency and perseverance, your capacity to learn and to explore your creative core will live on. I hope your story spurs change in the hearts of your loved ones and the people whose decisions shaped the poverty you experienced.

May your memory be a revolution.

Note about the photo: there is a different photo circulating from the sheriff’s office. It looks filtered and that’s fine. But the image I selected was one that Jessi personally opted to pose for as part of her newspaper story. It is recent, realistic, and an image she put into the world to represent her.

Our list of transgender, gender, and non-binary neighbors lost to violence in 2021. Please do not copy or share this list without attribution.

  1. Tyianna Davarea Alexandra — Chicago, Illinois. January 6, 2021. Age 28.
  2. Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín — Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. January 9, 2021. Age 21.
  3. Dominique Jackson — Jackson, Mississippi. January 25, 2021. Age 30.
  4. Bianca ‘Muffin’ Bankz — Atlanta, Georgia. January 21, 2021. Age 31.
  5. Fifty Bandzzz — Baton Rouge, Louisiana. January 28, 2021. Age 21.
  6. Alexus “Kimmy” Braxton — Miami, Florida. February 4, 2021. Age 45.
  7. Chynaa Carrillo — New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. February 18, 2021. Age 24.
  8. Jeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright — Ambridge, Pennsylvania. February 22, 2021. Age 16.
  9. Jasmine Cannady — Ambridge, Pennsylvania. February 22, 2021. Age 22.
  10. Jenna Franks — Jacksonville, North Carolina, February 24, 2021. Age 34. **
  11. Diamond Nicole ‘Kyree’ Sanders — Cincinnati, Ohio. March 3, 2021. Age 23.
  12. Rayanna Pardo — Los Angeles, California, March 17, 2021. Age 26. ***
  13. Aidelen Evans — Port Arthur, Texas, March 2021. Age 24 ****
  14. Dominique Lucious — Springfield, Missouri, April 8, 2021. Age 26.
  15. Jaida Peterson — Charlotte, North Carolina, April 4, 2021. Age 29.
  16. Remy Fennell — Charlotte, North Carolina, April 15, 2021. Age 28.
  17. Tiara Banks — Chicago, Illinois, April 21, 2021. Age 26.
  18. Natalia Smüt Lopez — San Jose, California, April 23, 2021. Age 24.
  19. Tiffany Thomas — Dallas, Texas, April 21, 2021. Age 38.
  20. Iris Santos — Houston, Texas, April 23, 2021. Age 22.
  21. Jahaira M. DeAlto — Boston, Massachusetts, May 2, 2021. Age 42.
  22. Keri Washington — Clearwater, Florida, May 1, 2021. Age 49.
  23. Danny Henson — Baltimore, Maryland, May 4, 2021. Age 31.
  24. Whispering Wind Bear Spirit — York, Pennsylvania, May 4, 2021 Age 41
  25. Sophie Vasquez — Atlanta, Georgia, May 4, 2021. Age 36.
  26. Serenity Hollis — Albany, Georgia, May 8, 2021. Age 24.
  27. Oliver “Ollie” Taylor — Gervais, Oregon, May 19, 2021. Age 27.
  28. Thomas Hardin — York, South Carolina, May 2, 2021. Age 35.
  29. Poe Black / Oliver Jackson — Slab City, Niland, California, May 11, 2021 (estimated). Age 21.
  30. EJ Boykin / Novaa Watson — Lynchburg, Virginia, May 14, 2021. Age 23.
  31. Taya Ashton — Suitland, Maryland, July 17, 2021. Age 20.
  32. Shai Vanderpump — Trenton, New Jersey, July 30, 2021. Age 23.
  33. Tierramarie Lewis — Cleveland, Ohio, June 12, 2021. Age 30.
  34. Miss CoCo — Dallas, Texas, August 7, 2021. Age 44.
  35. Pooh Johnson — Shreveport, Louisiana, August 23, 2021. Age 25.
  36. Disaya Monaee Smith — Dolton, Illinois, September 6, 2021. Age 32.
  37. Brianna Ulmer Hamilton — Chicago, Illinois, September 17, 2021. Age 25.
  38. Kier Laprice (Kartier) Solomon — Dallas, Texas, September 30, 2021. Age 21.
  39. Royal Poetical Starz — Miami Gardens, Florida, October 2, 2021. Age 26.
  40. Mel Robert Groves — Jackson, Mississippi, October 11, 2021. Age 25.
  41. Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez – Seattle, Washington, August 31, 2021. Age 20.
  42. Jo Acker– Boise, Idaho, October 25, 2021. Age 26.
  43. Jessi Hart – Banks, Oregon, early October 2021. Age 42.

We are also still monitoring these suspicious deaths from 20/21 (in addition to the 44 documented killings.)

Fendi Mon’ezah Armstrong — Lithonia, Georgia, November 11, 2020. Age 39

Kimberely Patricia Cope — Athens, Georgia, December 27, 2020. Age 40.

Natasha Keianna — Detroit, Michigan, January 12, 2021. Age 37.

Bonaire ‘Bonnie’ Black — Atlanta, Georgia, December 31, 2020. Age 19.

Koko Nia Labeija — Chicago, Illinois, Found June 2020, Identified April 2021, Age 19

Haven Bailey — Villa Park, Illinois, May 24, 2021. Age 25.

Trans lives


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