A transgender woman was shot dead on Christmas Day in what her friends believe was a hate crime incident, before she was misgendered by police in death.
Friends and family of Courtney Eshay Key have spoken out after she was killed in the evening of 25 December in the East Chatham neighbourhood of Chicago.
The 25-year-old was found dead in an incident initially reported as a hit-and-run crash, though it has since emerged she suffered gunshot wounds.
To make matters worse, police had initially listed the proud transgender woman as a man and an unidentified “John Doe”, provoking anger from those who knew her over the indignities she suffered in death.
Chicago Police face anger for misgendering Courtney Eshay Key
Lifelong friend Beverly Ross told CBS2: “We are human. We are real. We’re tired of Chicago police misgendering trans people, gender non-conforming people.
“They’re dehumanising our character.”
Key was still listed as male in Chicago Police systems days after the incident, the outlet reports, despite her identity now being known.
While her death is being investigated as a homicide, police declined to confirm whether the case is being considered a potential hate crime, even though her loved ones believe she was likely targeted for being transgender.
Beverly Ross added: “I believe Eshay was targeted. We need to get to the bottom of this because Black trans lives matter. We are not going anywhere.”
Key is at least the 43rd transgender person to be been killed in the United States in 2020, the majority of which were Black and Latinx transgender women.
Trans murder victims often face misgendering by police and media
An analysis of 37 transgender murder victims’ cases by Media Matters last month found that 18 of the victims were misgendered by police reports, while 23 were misgendered by media.
Of the 139 articles published in 2020 misgendering transgender murder victims, only 18 – less than one in five – were updated to fully remove language that misgendered them.
Human Rights Campaign, which tracks reports of fatal anti-transgender violence, said: “These victims were killed by acquaintances, partners or strangers, some of whom have been arrested and charged, while others have yet to be identified. Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias. In others, the victim’s transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness and/or survival sex work.
“While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of colour – particularly Black transgender women – and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and unchecked access to guns conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities.
“As is too often the case in the reporting of anti-transgender violence, many of these victims are misgendered in local police statements and media reports, which can delay our awareness of deadly incidents.”