Paige Clay, a transgender woman who many believed to be a rising luminary in Chicago's ball scene, was found apparently murdered in West Garfield Park.
Clay, 23, was found in an alley on the 4500 block of West Jackson on Monday, April 16 at 3:52 a.m. According to police, Clay suffered a gunshot wound to the head. No one is custody. Area North Detectives are investigating.
Police did not identify Clay. Rather, several community members confirmed her identity to Windy City Times. Clay received services at local LGBT agencies and was known in Chicago's ball scene.
Clay grew up on Chicago's West Side. At age nine or 10, she became a ward of the state. The whereabouts of her parents are unknown to those who knew her. According to Ivory Mays, a close friend of Clay's, lived for a time at Lawrence Hall Youth Services.
Clay found Chicago's LGBT community at a young age, and she formed a large chosen queer family.
Among them was Mina Ross, who was Clay's "ballroom mother" in the House of Evisu.
Ross, who provided a home for Clay for a period of time, described Clay as "rambunctious."
She was hard to get to know, said friends. She was fiercely protective and tough. But those who got close enough discovered a passionate and kind person, they said.
"To love her soft spots, you had to get to know her hard spots," said Marlo Moss, a friend of Clay's.
"It's a big community of people that loved her," said Mays. "She was a very creative person, very diligent."
Clay walked Runway in the ball scene, and despite her inexperience, friends say she was fast making a name for herself. In part, they say, it was her ingenuity. Clay crafted her outfits with little money, borrowing when necessary, but always creating something unique.
"In the ball scene, there wasn't anyone with that kind of passion," said Moss.
Clay traveled from state-to-state with Ross and won several competitions.
Clay had come into her own in the past few years. She came out as transgender, became emancipated from the state and moved out into her own apartment, a great point of pride for her. She held jobs at McDonald's, Wendy's and Forever 21 clothing store, among other places.
But she also faced challenges. Like many young trans women of color, Clay was subjected to violence and discrimination, friends say.
In addition to working in the service industry, Clay was occasionally involved in sex work, said Ross, noting that she had been subject to violence before.
Friends do not agree on whether or not Clay's involvement in sex work should be talked about publicly. Some believe that people will not see the complexities of her life, while others, like Ross, believe it is simply a part of her story, a thing that should be discussed without shame or reservation.
Regardless, friends say she lived the life she wanted, and carried an attitude that touched the community around her.
Ross said that Clay had just begun to find herself.
"She grew into a beautiful, beautiful young woman," Ross said. "I was so devastated by this [ loss ] ."
Moss summed up Clay's legacy by recalling a phrase Clay often used.
"If you're quiet as a mouse, no one will hear you," she said.
Clay does not have many known family members in Chicago. Initially, friends worried that Clay had no family to make funeral arrangements. According to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office, however, a next-of-kin has been located. Clay's remains will be released once funeral arrangements are made.
Initially, Windy City Times reported that community meeting to discuss Clay would be held on April 26. The paper has been informed that that meeting has been cancelled.
Windy City Times will update as details become available.
Center on Halsted responds to Transgender Woman Murdered in Chicago, April 17, 2012
Chicago According to news reports, a transgender woman was found dead in Chicago's West Garfield Park neighborhood yesterday from an apparent gunshot wound to the head.
In response, Modesto Tico Valle, Center on Halsted CEO, released the following statement:
"Though we do not have all the details, this news is extremely disturbing, especially as severe violence against transgender women is all too common. Transgender women face some of the highest rates of violence and abuse in our nation. This is the third reported murder of a transgender woman in the U.S. in April alone.
"We must work together to create more safety in our world for all people, especially those most targeted."
Center on Halsted is a founding member of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs ( NCAVP ) . Their most recent report indicated that of the murders identified as hate crimes against LGBTQ people and those impacted by HIV in 2010, 44% were against transgender women.
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs news release, April 17, 2012:
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs ( NCAVP ) has learned of the murder of a transgender woman, found shot to death on Monday, April 16th in West Garfield Park in Chicago. www.chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/04/16/man-found-shot-to-death-in-west-garfield-park/ .
NCAVP's most recent report, Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2010 ( cts.vresp.com/c/ ) , documented 27 anti-LGBTQH murders, the second highest yearly total ever recorded by the coalition. Transgender women made up 44% of the 27 reported hate murders in 2010, while representing only 11% of total survivors and victims.
NCAVP is working with its member organization in Chicago Center on Halsted to offer our assistance with their efforts to support the community during this critical time. NCAVP encourages anyone who has experienced violence to contact a local anti-violence program for support and to document this violence. For help locating an anti-violence program in your area, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ncavp.org .
Join NCAVP in our efforts to prevent and respond to LGBTQH violence. To learn more about our national advocacy, receive technical assistance or support, contact us.
If you are a member of the media and wish to speak with an NCAVP representative, please contact Lisa Gilmore at the Center on Halsted at 773-661-0734.
NCAVP works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and HIV-affected ( LGBTQH ) communities. NCAVP is a national coalition of local member programs and affiliate organizations who create systemic and social change. NCAVP is a program of the New York City Anti-Violence Project.