Community Mourns Loss of Transgender Teen Shelley Hilliard

Family, friends and community members are mourning the loss of Shelley Hilliard, a 19-year-old transgender woman who was reported missing several weeks ago. Last week, police were able to identify a burned torso found on Detroit's east side as belonging to Shelley, who was also known as Treasure.

"She was loved by a lot of people, a lot of friends, a lot of family," Shelley’s mother Lyniece Nelson (pictured right holding a photo of Shelley) told The Detroit News. "She just brought joy to everyone that she came in contact with. She was always there for her family.”

Shelley was last seen at 1:20 a.m. on October 23, reported the Detroit Free Press. According to her mother, a cab driver Shelley often relied on for rides dropped her off at a home that night where three men were waiting for her. When Shelley called the driver back, he heard screams and muffling before the phone went dead. By the time he got back around the corner, there was no one in sight, Lyniece said.

Police are investigating Shelley’s death as a homicide. While it’s unclear whether Shelley’s murder was motivated by anti-transgender bias, research shows that transgender women are devastatingly impacted by bias-motivated crime. A recent report released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs    found that transgender women constituted 44% of LGBT hate crime victims in the past year, and people of color constituted 70% of the victims.

The Detroit Free Press also reported that Shelley will be recognized during a Detroit event that will be held in observance of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time to honor the memory of those whose lives were lost due to anti-transgender violence.

The event is scheduled to be held on Friday, November 18, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m., at Central United Methodist Church, on the corner of Woodward and Adams in Detroit.

GLAAD has been closely monitoring the media’s coverage of Shelley’s tragic death and reached out to various media outlets that inaccurately used her given name. Often transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to change their name legally. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who lives by a name other than their birth name. The Huffington Post and Detroit Crime Examiner were among the media outlets that updated their stories to honor Shelley’s life and memory. GLAAD is continuing to work with community partners, including Equality Michigan and the Ruth Ellis Center, to ensure that the media is accurately and fairly reporting this story.

GLAAD mourns Shelley’s death and wishes all the best to her friends, family, and loved ones during this difficult time.