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Tiara Richmond: a trans woman of color murdered on Chicago's South Side
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2017-02-22

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On the morning of Feb. 21, national media was slowly picking up on the story that the Trump administration intended to roll back Title IX guidance for transgender students. As has been the pattern since, Jan. 20 attention nationwide was focused entirely on what was precisely going to emerge from The White House and when.

At 6 am in the Chicago South Side neighborhood of Englewood, a 24-year-old transgender woman of color Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond (AKA Keke Collier) was shot dead while engaging in a job that, for a majority of transgender women of color who are shunned by schools, churches, employers or, in some cases, their own family, is their only means of survival—sex work or, as it is known locally "on the stroll."

Richmond's murder makes her the second transgender woman in as many years in Chicago following the 2015 murder of T.T. Saffore. She is the fourth transgender individual to have lost their lives to violence in 2017.

Her story did not make any national headlines. Early local reports from ABC mis-gendered her as male. That story has since been taken down.

On the evening of Feb. 22, shortly before Trump and the Department of Justice officially revoked Obama's guidance on Title IX transgender protections, a group of 20 family members and friends gathered at 76th Street and Stewart Avenue in a vigil for their fallen daughter and friend.

Brave Space Alliance Executive Director and tireless community advocate LaSaia Wade was among the attendees at the vigil that was as much about mourning her loss as it was celebrating and remembering Richmond as a person.

"The family was grieving, but it wasn't just tears. There was laughter, there was love," she told Windy City Times. "[Tiara] was the oldest sibling of three girls and she was really loved by her family. She was the life of the party."

Wade added that, when Richmond went out to enjoy herself with her friends, she was the envy of the dance floor.

"Her sisters said that she was a person you could always talk to," Wade said. "The one they confided in. They didn't understand, but they knew she was family so they really didn't care. No matter what, she had a place to go."

During the vigil, one individual said that, despite the love of her family, it was hard for Richmond to make a living "as who she was."

Wade also wondered why Richmond was mis-gendered by the CPD and the press when her gender identity was accepted by her family and friends.

There is a nationwide movement to legalize sex-work as a means of reducing the violence faced by those who engage in it either as their only means of survival, or in some cases, a career.

Many of the transgender women on the streets of the South and West sides would use the adult section of Backpage.com in order to avoid having to be out in the open and so open targets.

On Jan. 17, 2017 Backpage closed its adult section.

Suburban Police Chiefs like Michael Kilbourne of Carpentersville hailed it in reports from the Chicago Tribune as the shutting off of "an avenue that lends itself to illegal and illicit activities."

However, Wade sees the closure as putting trans women and others engaged in sex work in greater danger.

"The closure of Backpage was an attack by Conservatives," she said. "What kills me about that is that Conservatives were on Backpage looking for sex workers. A lot of sex workers reached out to me and asked 'what am I supposed to do now?' It cut off a vital avenue for their income. People have to go back on the street again."

The street was where Richmond was robbed of her life. Saffore in 2015 and Paige Clay and Tiffany Gooden in 2012. Each of those crimes remains unsolved.

It was where Eisha Love was arrested in 2012 and jailed in Cook County's maximum security Division IX for four years without a trial until she accepted a plea deal in 2015 that saw her freedom.

It was where Richmond—a Black woman beloved of her family and friends but with few if any other options in terms of work was robbed of her life. Her family, friends and advocates like Wade mourn her alone.

Meanwhile, as of Feb. 23, the outrage about the recension of Title IX protections has continued and will be the focal point of national media attention until the news cycle is diverted by a Trump tweet.


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