Jessi Hart's Death Marks 43rd Violent Trans Death of 2021

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 3, 2021

With the "suspicious" death of Jessi Hart, there have now been 43 known violent killings of transgender and gender-nonconforming people — nearly a match for last year's record-breaking total of 44, as reported by the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks lethal anti-transgender violence.

Hart, 42, had been featured in a local Oregon newspaper in a story about residents of Portland who were on the brink of homelessness, People Magazine reported.

Hart "was then living in a Ramada Inn on the outskirts of Portland with her 13-year-old son Caleb," People added. Media reports detailed how Hart subsequently spent a period of time living in her car, while Caleb stayed with friends.

Hope arrived when the two gained housing at a hotel, but then, on Oct. 17, "police found Hart's body in the woods about five miles north of Banks, 25 miles west of Portland, along with evidence that cause[d] them to believe the death was 'suspicious,' the Washington County Sheriff's Office states in a news release," People reported.

Police "believe she had died about two weeks before authorities found her body," the Human Rights Campaign reported.

"Initially, police were not able to make an identification, but an autopsy completed three days later by the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office confirmed the remains were Hart's," People noted.

Hope's car — originally black — was found after her death, the HRC detailed, and had been "spray-painted white."

The Willamette Week, the same newspaper that had profiled Hart in its story about residents facing homelessness, also covered the story of her death.

"I'll miss everything about her," Audrey Savage, Hart's girlfriend, told Willamette Week. "She was intelligent and thoughtful and caring, and I loved her quirks." Savage added that Hart "took almost all my hats. When they found her, they found her in my camouflage hat."

Mikki Gillette, an advocate with Basic Rights Oregon, detailed for the newspaper the economic hardships trans people face in disproportionate numbers. "Rates of unemployment, houselessness, poverty and extreme poverty are a lot higher amongst trans people," Gillette said.

"Trans people are reluctant to access shelters because of harassment they could experience from staff or people staying there," Gillette added.

The newspaper noted that Hart's financial woes started when she began transitioning. In the earlier profile, Hart told the Willamette Week that "she would have been miserable staying in a male body, but wondered if that suffering was better than putting Caleb through financial and emotional hardship after her transition.

News of Hart's death followed the Oct. 26 shooting death of Jo Acker, a security guard who was among the victims killed in a mass shooting at a shopping mall in Boise, Idaho.

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.