Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Black Trans Woman Disaya Monaee Fatally Shot in Chicago Suburb

Disaya Monaee

Disaya Monaee, a young Black transgender woman, was shot to death September 6 at a motel in Dolton, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

She is at least the 36th trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming American who has died by violence this year, most of them Black or Latinx women.

Some of the information about her is conflicting. The National Black Justice Coalition gives her name as Disaya Monaee Smith, while the Human Rights Campaign lists her as simply Disaya Monaee. The website for the Chicago-based Higgins Family Funeral Home lists a D'isaya Smith who died September 6 and gives her age as 27, while HRC lists her as 32. Her death was first reported by Beverly Ross on Instagram.

Chicago TV station WMAQ, which spoke to her mother, Latrina Banks, has her name as D'isaya Monaee Smith and her age as 27. Banks said her daughter was at the motel with a couple of women friends but was tired and decided to stay in the room while the others went out. When they returned, she was dead.

Banks believes her daughter fought the assailant. “At the hotel room door you can tell the struggle was at the door it was not inside the hotel room,” Banks told the station. “There’s blood, there’s like a trail of blood at the entrance way right there from the hallway area.”

Banks said D'isaya, who transitioned upon leaving high school, was happy, outgoing, and well loved. “She loved to dress, she loved to party, she loved to cook, she loved to do her hair, she loved to take care of people,” she said. “She’s been like that ever since she was little.”

Organizations are united in mourning the death of yet another Black trans woman. “We mourn the loss of Disaya Monaee Smith,” NBJC Deputy Executive Director Victoria Kirby York said in a press release. “2021 is on track to be the deadliest year on record for transgender and nonbinary people — and in Chicago, Disaya Monaee Smith’s killing marks the fourth transgender person to be murdered in the Chicago region this year alone. Illinois, Dolton, and county police departments must do more to proactively prevent the continued loss of trans lives happening across their city.”

“The epidemic of violence plaguing the transgender community, particularly Black transgender women, is appalling,” said a statement from Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC's Transgender Justice Initiative. “It is often the result of a toxic combination of transphobia, racism, and misogyny. We must do more to protect trans lives and provide resources to support the trans community.” Dolton police detectives are investigating Monaee’s death but have not arrested a suspect, according to HRC.

In 2020, 44 trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming people were reported to have died by violence. This was a record for the eight years or so that activists and LGBTQ+ media have been keeping track. In any year, there are likely many more such deaths that go unreported or misreported due to deadnaming and misgendering.

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