Conner was a program manager for Collective Action for Safe Spaces, where she worked to make a safer world for Black trans women and sex workers. She was also an organizer for No Justice No Pride, a D.C.-area collective that seeks to “end the LGBT movement’s complicity with systems of oppression that further marginalize queer and trans individuals,” as its website states.
“Words cannot describe the magnitude of Nona’s significance in our lives, our team, and community will never be the same without her and her gracious light,” Collective Action for Safe Spaces wrote in a tribute to Conner. The group said she had worked there since 2016, “when our community rallied together to establish a paid position for her.”
It goes on to say that Conner “helped bring forth so much brilliance to our DecrimNow campaign, anti-harassment efforts, and our Safe Bar Collective jobs program. In these past couple months, she’d began curating an arts-based storytelling project for sex workers impacted by the pandemic, and was actively facilitating No Justice No Pride house management and mutual aid requests amidst managing her own health and financial challenges.”
Je'Kendria Trahan, the executive director of CASS, added that Conner’s final days weren’t easy. “Unfortunately, Nona spent her last days fundraising for herself, oftentimes to find safer housing/reprieve from abusive living situations, take care of her basic & medical needs, and redistribute the funds back to other Black trans women struggling with the same thing,“ she wrote.
She added that Conner was failed by many systems, as many Black trans women are, and that’s something that needs to change. “We all have a responsibility to go out of our way to make sure Black trans women and sex workers are abundantly cared for,” she said, “that they have safe housing, the ability to have their material needs more than met, and the autonomy to thrive in all the ways they desire. We owe that to Nona, and to every Black trans woman in our lives.”
There’s currently a GoFundMe campaign for her celebration of life services that’s already raised over $25,000. The GoFundMe page describes her as “a bright star in so many people’s lives, a hopeless romantic, an enthusiastic cheerleader, a wise soul, and she was loved.”
It also says, “Nona was a community leader, advocate, mother, and so much more. Nona was deeply loved by so many in the community, particularly D.C.’s Transgender community. Nona was involved with No Justice No Pride where she stayed for the past few years as well as her job at Collective Action For Safe Spaces. She was a kind, kindred spirit who always encouraged ‘Be blessed and a blessing!’”
While no foul play is suspected in her death, Conner’s passing reminds us that so far this year nearly 30 trans Americans have died by violence, signaling that this could be another deadliest year on record.
The previous record was last year, when the 44 trans people were reported killed, and the record before that was in 2017, when 31 were reported killed. Most of these victims have been trans women of color, and specifically, Black trans women. Conner herself had survived at least one violent attack, being stabbed at least 48 times after she rebuffed a man who had approached her for sex.