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Casey Hoke -- a transgender artist and activist, as well as a TEDx speaker, Point Foundation scholar, and board member of GLSEN, which works to create safe and inclusive schools for LGBTQ youth -- died in his Pomona, Calif., home, according to a family statement on his Facebook page. The Los Angeles County Deputy Medical Examiner's told the Los Angeles Bladethe cause of death was deferred until after an official request.
"My family is heartbroken. We ask for privacy, but at the same time want to make sure Casey's friends and connections know," Hoke's brother, Ryan Benjamin Hoke, said in a statement.
Casey Hoke, 21, was a Point Foundation scholar at the California State Polytechnic University of Pomona; the nonprofit Point Foundation awards scholarships to accomplished LGBTQ students.
"Casey was a beloved member of the Point Family and the love and warmth he brought to every space he was in will be missed," Point Foundation communications director Eugene Patron told the Blade. "Casey's family told us how proud he was of his Point community service project and that we in the Point Foundation would ask that folks go see the incredible work that Casey was doing."
Hoke's project was a visual history and educational resource for queer art and culture that worked to demonstrate that LGBTQ history extends beyond the modern queer rights movement.
Hoke also served as a student ambassador for the GLSEN's Art, Identity, & YOU workshop. He became a board member of the organization in 2016.
Hoke attended high school in Louisville, Ky., where he came out as trans and endured harassment from his school's top official. Principal Gerald "Jerry" Mayes was furious about a profile of Hoke in the student newspaper, telling staff it was "wrong to profile a misfit going through a phase." Mayes allegedly said it would be "comparable to writing about someone who wanted to shoot up a school." He also requested that a security guard accompany Hoke to the men's restroom; Mayes himself asked the teenager invasive questions about his body and genitalia.
The Louisville Courier-Journal published news of an investigation into Jefferson County Public Schools and Mayes's conduct, which included his behavior towards transgender and African-American students.
"I came out with my story because it needed to be heard, and because his treatment of LGBTQ students in my high school was, and still is, really bad," Hoke said. "My advocacy did not stop at high school, where I had this mean principal."
"I have known Casey since he was in high school and he was a remarkable force of light, love, art, and power in the world who worked with GLSEN at every level," Dr. Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN told the Blade. "He was a sitting member of our board of directors and also often contributed his artwork to our cause. I am so grateful to have known and worked with him. He touched so many lives and he will always inspire me to press on and stop hate."
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