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Watch: Trans Woman of Color Eshay Key Killed Christmas Day

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday December 30, 2020

Courtney "Eshay" Key, 25, is the latest victim in a year that has seen more lethal anti-trans violence than any on record. Her family is demanding to know if her shooting death on Christmas Day was a hate crime, reports CBS News.

Key was found dead at the side of a road in the Chicago neighborhood of Chatham, which is on the city's south side. Police thought at first she had been struck by a car and killed, but then realized she had been shot.

CBS News noted that "Key's family said she had been misgendered — and on top of everything else, it's an insult to her and her memory." Chicago police listed her as a man and referred to her as a "John Doe," reports said.

Beverly Ross, a longtime friend of the murder victim, protested that, telling CBS Chicago, "We are human. We are real."

"We're tired of Chicago police misgendering trans people [and] gender non-conforming people," Ross added.

Saying she believed Key had been targeted, Ross told CBS News, "We need to get to the bottom of this because Black trans lives matter. We are not going anywhere."

The Chicago PD said that Key's death is being investigated as a homicide, but refrained from saying Key had been killed in a hate crime.

Bias crimes have soared in recent years, especially since the 2016 elections. Trans women of color have borne the brunt of the violence, with fatalities from anti-trans violence being described by some advocates as an "epidemic" of violence.

2017 set a record with 31 known killings of trans women, the Human Rights Campaign reported, but 2020 proved far more deadly, outstripping that peak. Key's murder was the 43rd known instance of deadly anti-trans violence this year, the HRC said.

"Eshay Key was a vibrant and beautiful woman who had a big heart and big dreams," said the HRC's Tori Cooper. "Eshay did not deserve to have her life cut short — none of the transgender and gender non-conforming people killed this year deserved that.

"No one should face discrimination or violence because of who they are, what they wear or how they look," Cooper added.

Watch the CBS Chicago news clip below.

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.