A forum of nearly 100 people came together to discuss the recent murder of a Chicago transgender woman, Paige Clay, at TaskForce Prevention and Community Services, 9 N. Cicero Ave. on the city’s West Side Tuesday night.
Local community members gathered to remember Clay, seek information about her death and demand justice.
Clay, who was 23, was found shot to death in a West Garfield Park neighborhood alley in the early morning hours of April 16. Chicago Police continue to investigate the apparent murder, and those who were close to Clay are demanding information from police and the community.
“It’s been a really tough month for transgender people,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who spoke briefly about the importance of keeping tragedies like that of Clay’s visible when they are often ignored and forgotten, she said.
A handful of attendees stepped forward during the forum and provided personal remembrances of Clay, but most in the room remained silent and somber throughout the event.
A common concern among the speakers was the issue of systemic violence towards transgender individuals and the lack of support from the larger LGBTQ community.
“It’s getting to the point where when I hear about a trans woman getting killed it just seems natural,” said Liz, who declined to provide a last name. “I’ve never felt any support but the gay community.”
Along with several other speakers, she went on to talk about her perceptions of racism and transphobia present in Boystown, which she said is commonly represented by the Take Back Boystown movement and the recent Tumblr blog, When in Boystown, as well as in many other parts of the gay and queer communities.
The community response to Clay’s apparent murder was also discussed. Chicago Police were invited to attend and provide their input, but did not respond to the invitation from organizers.
Bernard Clay (unrelated), education chair of Chicago’s West Side branch of the NAACP, offered to bring together emails from everyone in attendance and send them to the U.S. District Attorneys Office under the NAACP letterhead. He hopes that this will bring more visibility to Clay’s case.
More information on this email campaign is forthcoming, he said.
Precious Davis, the youth health and outreach coordinator at Center on Halsted, talked about helping young transgender people to become self-sufficient by providing tools such as vocational training. Davis explained that while many transgender women engage in survival activities such as sex work, this need not limit their possibilities.
This does not have to be all there is for transgender people, she said.
The transgender community in Chicago, she said, needs to “start making demands” for resources such as more beds for queer youth in shelters. She pointed to the success of organizations such as the Ali Forney Center in New York.
An impromptu performance by KOKUMO, a trans artist and organizer of the first-ever Chicago Trans Pride march, lightened the heavy mood of the forum.
Services for Clay are planned for Friday afternoon at Acklin Funeral Home, 1325 W. 87th St., beginning with a wake from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. A funeral will follow from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.