At least 27 transgender and nonbinary people were killed in the U.S. in 2017, making it the deadliest year on record for America’s trans community. The majority were trans women of color, a group that faces a greater risk of death by hate violence than any other.
Much has been reported about the tragic circumstances surrounding these individuals’ deaths. Below, though, we celebrate who they were in life and acknowledge the loss felt by their loved ones.
It’s difficult to get an accurate picture of this epidemic: Many states don’t include gender identity in hate-crime data, and because trans victims are often misgendered by authorities, family members and local media outlets. Doubtless, there are others whose fates are still unknown and we honor and grieve for them, as well.
Friday, November 17, at noon, head to Logo’s Facebook page for a special Facebook Live panel with members of the transgender community.
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28
A two-spirit member of the Oglala Lakota Native American tribe, Jamie who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. After studying social work at Oglala Lakota College and nursing at a Georgetown University summer program, she lived in Sioux Falls, where, according to her Facebook page, she worked as a customer service agent.
“[Jamie Lee] is the type of person that when she talks, people stop to listen,” Reina Parker of the Sioux Falls’ LGBT center, told the Argus Leader. “The impact she leaves on people after meeting her once is something nobody forgets.”
Friends also said Jamie loved spending time at the library.
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow was taken from us on January 1, 2017.
Mesha Caldwell, 41
Mesha was a popular makeup artist in Canton, Mississippi, where she regularly hosted hair and makeup competitions.
One friend described Mesha as “always happy… always smiling. She always had something good to say to everyone.” Evonne Kaho, a former roommate, described her as “a happy person that loved everyone and never met a stranger.”
Mesha Caldwell’s murder was discovered on January 4, 2017.
JoJo Striker, 23
JoJo was from Toledo, Ohio, where she attended the Horizon Science Academy charter school. The eldest of three siblings, JoJo was shy but funny and entertaining to those who knew her, according to her mother, Shanda Striker, who told the Toledo Blade, “Everybody loved [JoJo]. Everybody did.”
JoJo Stringer lost her life on February 8, 2017.
Keke Collier, a.k.a. Tiara Richmond, 24
Keke grew up in Chicago with two sisters and a brother, all of whom were reportedly very accepting when she came out as trans. According to her Facebook page, she studied to be a medical assistant and worked at Hollister.
“She loved to dance all the time,” friend Retta Collins told the Chicago Tribune. “She was always the life of the party.”
Keke Collier was killed on February 21, 2017.
Chyna Gibson, 31
Born in New Orleans, Chyna lived in California following stints in Atlanta and Houston. She traveled the country performing in drag shows, sometimes under the name Chyna Doll Dupree or “The Dancing Doll.” Chyna’s longtime friend and mentor, Dayshawn Brown, told The Times-Picayune she was a great entertainer determined to make a name for herself in show business.
“She had fun everywhere she goes,” Chyna’s sister, Iona Maxie, told Fox 40 in Sacramento. “She was a person who would walk in the room and complimented everybody, and just wanted you to feel good and have fun.”
Chyna Gibson was killed on February 25, 2017.
Ciara McElveen, 21
Ciara McElveen grew up with a brother and sister in Franklinton, Louisiana, with parents who were preachers and didn’t approve of her identity. She left for New Orleans, and was homeless for a while, according to The Times-Picayune. Friend and mentor Jean Brooks acted as a surrogate “auntie” to Ciara, saying, “She was a blessing to me as much as I was a blessing to her.”
After finding permanent housing, McElveen began volunteering with the Tulane Drop-In Wellness Center, doing outreach with New Orleans’ homeless population.
“Ciara was my client but more than that she was a leader, a powerful spirit for everyone who met her, and a true voice for the trans community,” said public defender Lauren Anderson. “My heart is broken by her loss. She was smart, full of light and hope… Ciara had great plans for her life that will never be realized.”
Ciara McElveen was murdered on February 27, 2017.
Jaquarrius Holland, 18
Jaquarrius Holland of Monroe, Louisiana was “an amazing dresser, a listening ear, and a wonderful person” who made people laugh and “never stopped fighting to be [her]self,” according to friends.
Jaquarrius enjoyed doing hair and makeup—she loved long false eyelashes so much her friend Chesna Littleberry nicknamed her the “eyelash queen.” “I’ve struggled with accepting myself and being who I am, and she always helped me with that,” Littleberry told Mic.
Jaquarrius Holland was killed on February 19, 2017.
Alphonza Watson, 38
Alphonza grew up in Washington, D.C., but spent the last decade in Baltimore. Her mother, Peggy Walker, told the Baltimore Sun, she loved cooking and gardening, and was as “the sunshine of our family.”
“She was a very caring, passionate, fun person to be around, always in a talkative and playful mood.”
Alphonza Watson’s life was taken on March 22, 2017.
Chayviss “Chay” Reed, 28Chay Reed/Facebook
Chay grew up in Carol City, Florida, and after graduating from high school and completing a job corps program, moved to the suburbs of Miami. “She was a light, always trying to make everyone around her happy,” longtime friend told Mic.
Others recalled her showing off her dance moves, and being the life of any party, but also described her as nurturing. “She was like a mom,” friend Nina Serafina told the Miami Herald. “She’d tell you when you were wrong even if you didn’t want to hear it. The whole city loved her.”
Chayviss Reed was killed in Miami on April 21, 2017.
Mx Bostick, 59Logo/NewNowNext
There have been conflicting accounts about the preferred first name and gender for Mx Bostick. We do know that they identified as transgender and alternated using the names Brenda and Kenneth, so we are using the gender neutral honorific “Mx” and “they/their” pronouns.
Little is known about Bostick’s life: According to their social services provider, they were an only child born in New Jersey and raised in the New York City area, mostly by their grandparents. Bostick, who was living with mental illness, became homeless after their death. Bostick was a regular in Chelsea and in Penn Station, where they reportedly lived on and off.
Bostick was “really quiet, but super nice, very kind to everyone,” according to Chelsea resident Jason Rozycki, who told the Village Voice he considered Bostick a friend. “Never did anyone any wrong. Never bothered anybody. Just a really nice person. It affected everybody when we heard.”
Mx. Bostick died on May 4, 2017.
Sherrell Faulkner, 46
Kenne McFadden, 27
Kenne was living in San Antonio, where, according to her Facebook page, she worked as a waitress. She was known for her love of singing and posted videos of herself belting out her favorite songs on social media.
Friends say she was always willing to listen, and described her as “super outgoing, super charismatic, the friendliest person ever—but when [she] needed to, [she] could be assertive.”
One friend told KENS 5, “If you’d given Kenne a chance, [she]’s one of those people you would be so fortunate enough in your entire lifetime to meet. That is a friendship you would want to invest in and you’d hang on to dear life for.”
Kenne McFadden’s murder was discovered on April 9, 2017.
Josie Berrios, a.k.a. Kendra Adams, 28
Josie, who also went by Kendra Adams, grew up in Ithaca, New York. According to her Facebook page, she attended Ithaca High School, studied business technology at Oneonta Job Corps, and worked in retail. She was part of Ithaca’s House of Merlot drag troupe, where she performed under the name Kimbella Rosé. Josie actually helped found the House of Merlot in 2012 to raise money for the Trevor Project.
“She was usually full of energy, rarely on time, and always slayed her performances,” Berrios’ fellow performer Colton Bready, who performs as Kat Von Riesling, wrote on the House Of Merlot Facebook page. “A proud trans woman of color, she always tried her best to make new performers feel comfortable in our spaces. She recognized the realness in all of us without question and made us feel beautiful.”
Josie Berrios’ life was taken on June 13, 2017.
Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17
Ava grew up in Athens, Georgia. Friends described her as a young woman who was “full of life,” a social butterfly who “loved to make people laugh.”
On an online obituary, one friend recalled how Ava gave her strength and courage when she needed it most. “She was a brave young woman who feared nothing or nobody, and especially not being herself.”
Eva Le’Ray Barrin was killed on June 25, 2017.
Ebony Morgan, 28
Few details are known about Ebony’s life, but friends in her hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia, described her as “sweet and funny.”
“It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that you’re not coming back, not coming in the door putting smiles on our faces,” remarked another friend on Facebook.
Ebony Morgan was killed on July 2, 2017.
TeeTee Dangerfield, 32TeeTee Dangerfield/Facebook
TeeTee lived in Atlanta, where she had recently bought a three-bedroom house. She’d worked at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for more than a decade and recently became union shop steward for the union at the Mustard Seed restaurant, where she was a server,
“Colleagues loved her,” union organizer Nadia Taylor told the Daily Beast. “She was a very sweet person, very honest, and when she needed to speak up she spoke up.”
TeeTee Dangerfield’s life was ended on July 31, 2017.
Gwynevere River Song, 26
Gwynevere identified as femandrogyne and bisexual, and used they/them pronouns, according to their Facebook page. They studied radiation physics at the University of Texas, where they graduated in 2015, and regularly blogged about social justice. A resident of Waxahachie, Texas, they also maintained a YouTube channel where they discussed everything from science and activism to gender and gaming.
“I miss her beautiful soul everyday.” said Gwynevere’s mother, Marcy Sutton, in a Facebook post.
Gwynevere River Song was killed on August 12, 2017.
Kiwi Herring, 30
Born in Mississippi, Kiwi lived in St. Louis, where she raised three young boys—ages 4, 7, and 8—with her spouse, 28-year-old Kristopher Thompson.
“[She] was part of our queer family,” the Metro Trans Umbrella Group said in a Facebook post. “Kiwi was a parent and a human beloved by the neighborhood children around her. Kiwi fed people with love and had a contagious smile.”
Kiwi Herring was killed by police on August 22, 2017.
Kashmire Redd, 28
Derricka Banner, 26Derricka Banner/Facebook
Derricka lived in Lenoir, North Carolina, where she attended West Caldwell High School, according to her Facebook page. Her friends, who sometimes lovingly called her “Ms. Bow Wow,” described her on social media as a “playful spirit” and “go-getter” who enjoyed life.
In an online memorial, one described her as “a wonderful person.” Another she was “one-of-a-kind, with a big heart and an infectious personality.”
Derricka Banner’s life was taken on September 12, 2017.
Ally Lee Steinfeld, 17
Ally spent most of her childhood in Missouri and, when her family moved to House Springs, she stayed behind and moved in with friends in Cabool, about 170 miles from St. Louis.
She Lee came out as trans earlier this year, and in June made an Instagram post captioned, “I am proud to be me, I am proud to be trans, I am beautiful, I don’t care what people think.” In another post, she shared that she identified as “mostly lesbian but pansexual.”
Steinfeld’s mother, Amber Steinfeld, told the AP that her child was “loving and kind-hearted.”
Steinfeld was reported missing on September 1 and her remains were found on September 21, 2017.
Stephanie Montez, 47
Stephanie grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, where she was raised by her grandparents, along with a brother and two sisters. She is remembered as loving and generous: “She was never afraid or ashamed to be true to herself or anyone else,” friends wrote in an online memorial. “She was the sweetest most kind, most courageous, most selfless person that would give the shirt off her back to anyone in need and most often did.”
Brittany Ramirez, Stephanie’s friend of 30 years, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that she loved to dance and perform in drag. “She was one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. She just had a great outlook on life. She was very supportive of everyone.”
Stephanie Montez’s murder was discovered on October 21, 2017.
Candace Towns, 30Candace Towns/Facebook
Candace Towns of Macon, Georgia, was known by her loved ones as a generous friend. “If I needed anything she would give it to me,” best friend Malaysa Monroe told The Macon Telegraph. “She would give me the clothes off her back.”
After being missing for three days, Towns’ body was found on October 31, 2017.
Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson, 31Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson
Brooklyn BreYanna Stevenson lived in Oklahoma City, where her mother, Vivian Gaffney Stevenson, said she “was loved by many.” A GoFundMe campaign launched to cover funeral expenses superseded its $5,000 goal, bringing in nearly $6,700.
Stevenson was discovered dead in a motel room on November 27.
“We are heartbroken. Brooklyn BreYanna was an amazing daughter, sister and friend with a giving and loving heart,” her family said in a statement. “We pray that those who committed this heinous crime will be identified and Brooklyn will receive justice.”
Brandi Seals, 26Brandi Seals
Seals lived in Houston and while her family did not fully embrace her gender identity, her aunt told reporters “whoever took [her] life, they have to answer,” said Seals’ aunt, Maria Cheeks. “Maybe the police might not get you, but you will have to answer to… the higher power of God.”
Seals’ body was discovered December 13 in a home under construction in Sunnyside.