Black transgender woman Cashay Henderson has become at least the seventh trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming person to die by violence in the U.S. this year.
Her body was found in a burning apartment building in Milwaukee Sunday morning, according to the local Fox affiliate. She had been fatally shot before the fire was set. She was identified by Milwaukee LGBTQ+ group Diverse & Resilient. The fire may have been set to cover up the gunshot, “as a further act of desecration,” or for some other reason, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reports. She was the third Black trans woman killed in Milwaukee in the past nine months, the others being Brazil Johnson and Mya Allen. A fourth, Toi Davis, died under what police called suspicious circumstances.
Henderson was 31 years old and had lived in Milwaukee before recently returning to Chicago, where she was born, Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents notes. She attended Dunbar Vocational High School and Prologue Early College High School in Chicago, and she was later active with a Milwaukee organization called Sisters Helping Each Other Battle Adversity. She went by the name Gemini Shanti with SHEBA. The group tweeted a tribute to her, saying, “She was nothing less than a joy to be around.”
Another Wisconsin organization, the Black Rose Initiative, tweeted that Henderson was “a great friend and great influencer in our community.”
Also paying tribute was longtime friend Ladi Ananna, who told the Fox affiliate, “She was just a special girl, you know. Just a beautiful heart.”
“She was in her place that’s supposed to be a safe haven for her, and it’s like, you can’t even be safe in your own home,” Ananna added. “It’s like, the gun violence is that bad in Milwaukee.”
Christopher Allen, president and CEO of Diverse & Resilient, pointed out to the station that LGBTQ+ people suffer discrimination every day. “That discrimination can create environments where they don’t feel welcome, they don’t feel supported,” Allen said.
She was misgendered in an early report from another TV station, WISN, and Twitter users are calling this out. The station changed “person” to “woman” in a headline after learning she was trans.
Henderson’s cousin Veronica Beck has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help with funeral expenses. Milwaukee activists plan to hold a memorial vigil soon.
Police ask that anyone with information about Henderson's death contact them at (414) 935-7360. Those who wish to report tips anonymously, are asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (414) 224-TIPS.