A devastating tragedy in Chicago on Monday left a 21-year-old Latinx trans woman, Unique Banks, and her mother, Alexsandra Olmo, 43, both dead. They were killed in a mass shooting that targeted the two women, Olmo’s boyfriend, and two other transgender women. The three survivors are all hospitalized with critical injuries.
Chicago police describe this as a home invasion and an ambush.
The shooting took place in the 2900 block of East 78th Street, at Exchange Avenue on the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago around1:40 p.m. on Monday, January 23, 2023. Police sources telling CBS 2 that two people, described as teens wearing ski masks, one wearing camo, kicked in an apartment door and demanded money before opening fire.
Police are not sharing much information on the investigation. There have been no follow up reports on the medical status of the three survivors.
Several family members have spoken with the media, but given the volatile and unknown level of violence involved, I have opted not to reprint their names or identifying information. This level of violence feels not only terrifying, but unfinished. Suffice it to say that the two women are deeply loved and mourned by their family and friends.
There is nothing to suggest that Unique and her trans friends were specifically targeted because of their identities. That’s yet to be determined. But this happened TO a small group that included three trans women. The ways that trans identities feed into this violence can be subtle and nuanced, not necessarily a legal hate crime but likely fueled by a disregard for the humanity of the victims. Can you imagine how other trans women in Chicago are feeling right now? This absolutely happened to the trans community.
Unique was born and raised in Chicago. She liked makeup artistry, and rap artists Slimeroni and GloRilla among others. Her father relocated from Chicago to Florida when she was about 10. She remained in Chicago with her mother and siblings and a large extended family. One of her siblings died suddenly about 18 months ago, now that family has to cope with unimaginable loss again.
Unique was loved fiercely in her young life. And she deserved more years to grow into her adult life as her authentic self. My heart breaks for her loved ones. For all of our young people.
Unique is the fourth transgender and nonbinary person known to be murdered in the United States in 2023. She is the third trans woman. She is the first Latina trans woman and the third BIPOC. Her death means a trans person has reportedly died a violent death every 5.7 days in 2023. That we know of because many of these crimes go unreported (see the post about Destin Howard.)
So what will you do now that you’ve read this post and wept, perhaps quietly, for our neighbor? Will you volunteer with a local trans led program? Will you invest with a donation?
Will you send trans folx a sign that you are standing with them? Share this post? Will you look for the helpers in the trans community and follow their lead? Or will you keep scrolling? The world has taken a violent and vicious turn against the trans community in recent years and it is not enough to grieve the dead, we must protect the living. What will you do?
Rest in power, Unique. You should have had a long beautiful life filled with the experiences you dreamed about. You deserved to feel safe in our world and we have failed to make that so. I hope you find comfort and peace, that we will watch over your friends who survived and support them as they recover. Thank you for everything you brought into this world.
May your memory be a revolution.
This is our list of transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming neighbors who have been victims of the campaign of terror in 2023. Please do not copy, modify, or share this list without attribution.
- Jasmine ‘Star’ Mack – District of Columbia, January 7, 2023. Age 36.
- KC Johnson – Wilmington, North Carolina, January 13, 2023. Age 27.
- Tortuguita – Weelaunee Forest, Georgia, January 18, 2023. Age 26.
- Unique Banks – Chicago, Illinois, January 23, 2023. Age 21.
In 2022, we reported on the violent deaths of 40 trans and nonbinary neighbors in the United States. There were more, I know because I am still pursuing some of those cases. We are also updating as new reports come in dating back to 2022.
- Destin Howard – Macon, Georgia, December 9, 2022. Age 23.