Clay, 23, was found shot in the head April 12 at 3:52 a.m., in an alley on the 4500 block of West Jackson Boulevard in the West Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago. Area North detectives are investigating the case, and no suspects are in custody.
“My main reason for doing this is because it seems like [Clay’s murder] is in the process of being swept under the mat,” said Brian Turner, a social worker at Taskforce Prevention and Community Services and organizer of the event, to Chicago Phoenix. Turner also runs a program for transgender women called Women of Many Voices of which Clay was a member.
Turner has contacted numerous city officials and investigators and has not been contacted in return. Turner was also turned away from identifying Clay’s body because he was not considered immediate family.
Turner describes Clay as an adopted member of his family, as his aunt was a foster mother to Clay.
“Why should it matter if I’m not immediate family if my aunt was her foster mother? This is the woman that raised her, who took her into her own home,” Turner said to Chicago Phoenix. “She has people who love her who were not her immediate family, but they were family.”
Clay was also an avid participant in balls, underground competitions in which different houses battle for prizes and trophies with a fusion of cat walking, dancing, voguing and drag. The ball houses, composed primarily of black men who have sex with men and transgender women, are similar to families or fraternities, each one cheering on their members as they compete.
“Though we do not have all the details, this news is extremely disturbing, especially as severe violence against transgender women is all too common,” Modesto Tico Valle, CEO of the Center on Halsted, wrote in a statement. “Transgender women face some of the highest rates of violence and abuse in our nation. This is the third reported murder of a transgender woman in the U.S. in April alone. We must work together to create more safety in our world for all people, especially those most targeted.”
Transgender women, particularly those of color, are much more likely to experience violent crime than cisgender woman and other identity groups within the LGBT community. In 2010, 44 percent of LGBT murder victims were transgender women, and in 2009 transgender women were 50 percent of murder victims. But transgender people as a whole are only about 1 percent of the LGBT population.
UPDATE: In solidarity with the rally for Paige, the National Center For Transgender Equality has cancelled a reception scheduled for the same time. NCTE released the following statement:
As one of the nation’s leading trans social justice organizations, we understand how effective it can be when our community joins together. Thank you for your ongoing support of our work. We hope to reschedule our Chicagoland reception sometime in the near future. Until then, we invite you to join NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling at [the] Justice for Paige [rally].