Friends and family came together for a vigil in Washington, D.C., this weekend that celebrated the life of Lashai Mclean, a 23-year-old transgender woman who was tragically shot and killed on Wednesday, July 20.
Lashai was with another transgender woman in the very early morning on Wednesday when she was shot in northeast D.C. (Her companion was able to get away.) Lashai was pronounced dead shortly after being transported to a local hospital. Police are still investigating whether they will pursue her murder as a hate crime and have released very little information about the case, other than a brief description of the suspects as “two black males.”
Lashai was very active in the LGBT community and in particular with Transgender Health Empowerment (T.H.E.), a D.C. organization that provides resources such as housing, counseling, and HIV testing for transgender and LGB people. Lashai’s vigil was organized by T.H.E. member Earline Budd and a member of the D.C. Trans Coalition, Ruby Corado. “She was so sweet. We want to share her life,” said Corado to Metro Weekly. The candlelight vigil was observed in the evening on Saturday, July 23, near the site of Lashai’s murder, and more than 200 people came out to respect her memory. More than a dozen people spoke, including D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander, who asked the community to speak out against anti-transgender hate. “We are committed to making sure that justice is done, that this life that has touched many of us will be remembered and the life that she led will be remembered,” he said.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force points out, “Lashai’s murder is a tragic reminder that, just outside the walls where our representatives debate and forge wide-reaching social policy, the capital city itself is home to real people who continue to suffer. … Social stigma and hatred remain an ever-present reminder that the law can only change so much.” The murder took place just hours before the first Senate hearing in history on the repeal of the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA).
Transgender and gender non-conforming people face enormous discrimination everyday. Results from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey released earlier this year shows that transgender people face injustices in housing, health care, employment, and many other areas. Hate crime data released earlier this month show that transgender women constituted 44% of LGBT hate crime victims in the past year, and people of color—like Lashai—constituted 70% of the victims. These numbers only increase for people with low income levels and insufficient access to education--factors which also affected Lashai.
Transgender victims of violence encounter even more obstacles. The Washington Blade points out that local D.C. police initially withheld Lashai's actual identity, referring to her by the wrong name and pronouns. In a press release after the murder, the D.C. Trans Coalition condemned this, adding, “While nothing can bring back those we have lost or undo the suffering we share, we can and should confront the daily terror and anxiety that trans and gender non-conforming people face. We can do this by building networks of mutual support and solidarity that sustain our efforts to feel safe and make change…We demand that MPD make finding Lashai’s killer a top priority.”
GLAAD mourns Lashai’s death and wishes all the best to her friends, family, and loved ones during this difficult time.