Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Number 19: Trans Woman Killed Near Chicago in March

Number 19: Trans Woman Killed Near Chicago in March

The victim in a deadly shooting near Chicago in March has been identified as a transgender woman, bringing the total number of trans women reported killed in the U.S. this year to 19. 

In the early morning hours of March 7, Keyshia Blige, a 33-year-old transgender woman, was driving a friend in her car through Aurora, Ill., "when several shots were fired," reports U.K. newspaper The Guardian

One shot hit Blige in the shoulder, and though she attempted to drive herself to the hospital, she eventually lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a Jeep, according to a March Chicago Tribune report that identified the victim as "a man" and by her male name. 

Blige was pronounced dead on arrival at an Aurora hospital at 2:58 a.m. March 7, reports the Tribune. A subsequent report in the Tribune did mention that Blige was "transitioning" and had recently begun hormone therapy, though the paper continued to use male pronouns and Blige's given (male) name. 

Blige was misgendered by police and media reports that relied upon her state-issued identification, notes The Guardian, but a friend of the victim contacted the U.K. paper to confirm Blige's identity as a trans woman. 

That friend, Sasha Love, told The Guardian that Blige had begun pursuing her physical transition shortly before she was killed and was "the happiest I had ever seen her once she started transitioning.” 

In March, Aurora police told the Tribune that the shooting was "not considered random" but declined to release a motive. When contacted by The Guardian, Dan Ferrelli, media relations manager for the Aurora Police Department, said, "It's definitely not a hate crime."

"But we have some theories we are looking into," added Ferrelli. 

The delayed nature of the discovery that Blige was a trans woman echoes how advocates learned about the death of Jasmine Collins, a 32-year-old transgender woman stabbed to death in Kansas City, Mo., in June. Although police arrested Tia Townsel and charged her with second-degree murder shortly after she allegedly stabbed Collins to death over an argument about a pair of shoes, Collins was originally identified as male in media and police reports. 

The deaths of Blige and Collins bring the total confirmed transgender women killed in the U.S. this year to 19. The vast majority of those victims have been women of color, particularly black or Hispanic. By comparison, 12 transgender women were reported killed in the U.S. throughout 2014. Notably, however, neither of these totals include individuals whose deaths were not reported or investigated, nor for victims who were misgendered or not regarded as trans women in death. 

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