Editor's note: When news of the victim's death broke, several activists identified the deceased as a transgender woman, but family members now say this was incorrect.
A man who appears to have been a member of the LGBTQ community was murdered Friday in Kansas City, Kan.
Kansas City police and local media have identified the victim, who was shot to death, as a 20-something man and used a male name, but some friends, relatives, and activists have posted on social media that the deceased was a trans woman named Ja’leyah-Jamar. However, Ja’leyah-Jamar's family has shared a video on Facebook through local LGBTQ group Our Spot KC saying the victim definitely identified as male and also went by the name Jamagio Jamar Berryman.
Adriana Sanders, the victim’s cousin, had posted the following on Facebook: “Ja’leyah-Jamar didn’t ask for this life... No one can control WHO they love God made us to live and love and to grow... It’s not our fault as a Transgender woman or a homosexual man to want to live a normal life...wanting to be in love have a family build your own legacy and because a Man could not accept who he was as himself and individual he felt the need to take my cousin’s life.”
This and other posts led to some confusion, and activists rightly pointed out that Black trans women had been murdered in the area, such as Brooklyn Lindsey, killed across the state line in Kansas City, Mo., in June.
The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project issued a statement on the crisis of violence against Black transgender women: "As we hold space to remember and uplift Ja'leyah, we must also recognize the factors at play that contribute to the dramatically increased risk of violence that trans women of color -- especially Black trans women -- face every day. Restrictions on basic needs and services like housing, employment, safe streets, healthcare, and protection under the law are just some barriers that put our sisters in harm's way daily. The discriminatory and violent systems that perpetuate violence against transgender women of color are a direct result of bias from within and outside our own communities. Ja'leyah's light shone to a select few, but we will let her light shine on all of us today."
Ja’leyah-Jamar was the parent of a 5-year-old daughter, Ja'Mya, local TV station KSHB reports.
Friends and family gathered to mourn Monday night at the scene of the crime. "I'll never be the same. I'll never be the same," Jennifer Gibson, Ja’leyah-Jamar's mother, told KSHB prior to the vigil. She called for an end to violence, saying, "Once that trigger is pulled, it's too late. You can't go back. Put the guns down."
Police have released a photo of a man being sought in connection with Ja’leyah-Jamar's murder, along with two photos of his car, The Kansas City Star reports. Officials believe he had been in a relationship with the victim, according to KSHB.
Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project’s free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.