In the absence of specifics from police surrounding the alleged murder of a transgender woman in Bakersfield, California, advocates are searching for clues about her life and death.
Police found the body of Jasmine Sierra, a transgender woman of color, on January 22 in an apartment on the 1000 block of Monterey Street, according to a report from local TV station KBAK. Police say Sierra’s body showed signs of trauma and foul play is suspected. Whether the police found the body in Sierra's home or a neighbor's house is still unknown.
While police reportedly interviewed neighbors and witnesses about hearing gunshots and fighting, they won't release further specifics about the circumstances of Sierra’s death. Calls to Bakersfield police were not returned by press time.
The alleged murder was not included among the other four homicides of transgender individuals in the United States this year because Sierra's gender-variant identity was unknown due to deadnaming and misgendering in the KBAK report. (Deadnaming occurs when using a transgender person’s former name, and misgendering occurs when identifying a trans person with pronouns or usages that depart from the person’s gender identity and expression.)
Sierra is the fifth trans individual killed after Demarkis Stansberry, Monica Loera, Kayden Clarke, and Maya Young. Four other trans individuals have been reportedly lost to suicide this year: Lucia McCalip, Nino Acox Jackson, Bryn Kelly, and Miriam Roe.
With details scant about Sierra’s death, transgender advocates like Jeriann Guzman, the executive director of the Solano Serenity Center and Kelli Busey, editor-in-chief of Planet Transgender have sought to humanize Sierra and draw awareness about her death. The Solano Serenity Center was among the first to list Sierra on its website among trans homicide victims who must be remembered this year.
“Piecing together her life like a crossword puzzle we are learning a little about her,’” says Busey in her Planet Transgender report. "There’s a Tumblr post where the author postulates a police conspiracy to cover up her murder which local media conspicuously called ‘suspicious.'"
The Tumblr post to which Busey refers alleges mishandling of the investigation by local police. While the author of the post remains unnamed, the individual’s allegations were repeated at the same time as the Tumblr post went live by two other trans people on Facebook (in comments now marked private) by individuals who claim to be friends of Sierra. (The author of the Tumblr post has not responded to a query by press time.)
The accusations on Tumblr and Facebook have yet to be verified because, for over a month, advocates say that Bakersfield police have not responded to queries. Advocates also note that the police’s apparent refusal to clarify the circumstances of the alleged homicide have exacerbated the transgender community’s frustration and fomented rampant speculation.
In her efforts to humanize Sierra, Busey points to a compassionate tribute left by Sierra’s family on the public website of the Bakersfield Green Lawn cemetery.
“Much to her families credit, they used her authentic name, but sadly there’s no obituary and just one friend who posted a comment,” says Busey.
The friend who left the comment, John G. Juarez, says the following on the cemetery’s website:
Jasmine you were a lovely and generous friend who I will greatly miss. Thank you for all the memories. I pray God comforts and protects your family during this time of mourning. RIP my beautiful friend.