Metro Weekly

Family of trans woman killed in Chicago believes her shooting is a hate crime

25-year-old Courtney "Eshay" Key was misgendered in initial police reports

Eshan Key – Photo: WBBM-TV.

The family of a transgender woman shot and killed in Chicago on Christmas Day believes she was targeted because of her gender identity.

Around 8:35 p.m. on the evening of Dec. 25, police found a body in a car on the south side of East 82nd Street near South Drexel Avenue, in the city’s East Chatham neighborhood.

At first, responding officers thought that the victim, who was pronounced dead on the scene, had been killed in a hit-and-run crash. But police later found she had died from gunshot wounds. The victim was later identified as 25-year-old Courtney “Eshay” Key.

Unfortunately, Key was initially misgendered and listed as a “John Doe.” When asked by CBS affiliate WBBM about Key’s gender identity, police told the news station that the victim continues to be listed as male. They also said the shooting is being investigated as a homicide. 

Key’s family and friends are understandably outraged by the fact that their loved one was misgendered. They remember her as someone who was outgoing, funny, and determined.

“She wanted to be something,” Beverly Ross, a lifelong friend, told WBBM. “She wanted to beat the odds.”

Ross also expressed outrage at the Chicago Police Department’s refusal to acknowledge Key’s gender identity.

“We are human. We are real,” she said. “We’re tired of Chicago police misgendering trans people; gender non-conforming people…. They’re dehumanizing our character.

She raised the possibility that Key could have been shot because she was transgender.

“I believe Eshay was targeted,” Ross added. “We need to get to the bottom of this because Black trans lives matter. We are not going anywhere.”

See also: Teenage girl pelted with cans of food by men yelling anti-gay slurs

Police have declined to comment on the family’s belief that the shooting was motivated by bias.

The Human Rights Campaign, which tracks violent deaths of transgender and gender-nonconforming people, says Key is at least the 43rd trans or nonbinary person killed in the United States this year.

“Eshay Key was a vibrant and beautiful woman who had a big heart and big dreams,” Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement. “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. “To truly end the epidemic of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, we must work together to dismantle the stigma and bias that so many face. It will take all of us.”

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