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Homicide of Tierramarie Lewis in Cleveland Marks 33rd Victim of Deadly Anti-Trans Violence in 2021

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday August 10, 2021

Tierramarie Lewis, 36, is the 33rd known victim of deadly violence directed at the transgender and gender non-conforming community this year, the Human Rights Campaign reports. Like the majority of victims, Lewis was a trans woman of color.

Though Lewis was killed on June 12, "due to misgendering and misnaming from local officials and a lack of media coverage, her death was not reported until recently," the HRC writes.

Ohio LGBTQ news outlet the Buckeye Flame reported that Lewis was shot in the chest. Police responding to the shooting administered first aid, but Lewis was declared dead after being taken to a hospital.

Following her death, Lewis was deadnamed and misgendered, the Buckeye Flame reported.

"The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office has Lewis listed under the male name she was given at birth — despite the fact her name was legally changed, which was reflected on her state identification card," the article detailed, going on to say that, according to the medical examiner's office, the name came from Lewis' death certificate, "a document prepared by a funeral home," which relied on Lewis' family to provide her name.

Lewis' death attracted little media notice at the time — just "a single post on the online Cleveland Ohio Remembrance page," the Buckeye Flame noted.

Lewis was active with LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, the article said, and it was that connection that led to her life and identity being accurately recalled. Otherwise, "it's unclear her murder would have been included" in the 2021 tally of deadly violence directed toward the trans community, the Center's Eliana Turan told the publication.

Turan, the Flame noted, is the author of a 2020 article at that identifies Cleveland as "an Epicenter for America's Trans Murder Crisis," with, at the time, eight known murders of trans individuals in as many years — a number that's now grown to at least nine trans victims in nine years.

The Flame reported that even before media reports could be updated to correct the misgendering of Lewis, a suspect — 25-year-old Duane Lunsford — had been indicted for the murder.

"Lewis came to Cleveland for a fresh start last year, hoping that affirming programs could help her break away from sex work and to recover from addiction," the Flame recounted.

News of Lewis' murder follows that of Shai Vanderpump's July 30 shooting death in Trenton, New Jersey.

2020 marked a record high in deadly anti-trans violence, with 44 known victims, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.