Tierramarie Lewis, a Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Cleveland June 12, making her at least the 33rd trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming person to die by violence in the U.S. this year.
There has been a delay in acknowledging her death as part of the total “due to misgendering and misnaming from local officials and a lack of media coverage,” notes a news release from the Human Rights Campaign.
Lewis was found in a residential neighborhood of Cleveland when police responded to a report of gunfire, The Buckeye Flame reports. She had been shot in the chest. Officers attempted to revive her, as they detected a faint pulse, but she died at a hospital shortly afterward.
The Cuyahoga County medical examiner’s office listed Lewis under her birth name, even though her name had been legally changed, and her death was not covered by local media outlets, according to the Flame.
A suspect has been arrested. Duane Lunsford, 25, of Cleveland, has been charged with aggravated murder and felonious assault, and has pleaded not guilty, the Flame reports.
Lewis had been experiencing homelessness and had received assistance from the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. She had moved to Cleveland last year from Columbus, and was trying to “break away from sex work and to recover from addiction,” the publication notes.
She had stayed in various shelters but experienced conflicts at some and blatant transphobia in at least one, with a security guard using the T word and referring to her with male pronouns.
Also, “Lewis was aware that she had maladaptive behaviors and she was working on them,” according to the Flame. “Each time she was dismissed from a shelter, she was resilient.”
Lewis was remembered fondly by people connected with the Cleveland center’s Trans Wellness program, which operates a support group and offers referrals to resources. “I just really respected her for the fact that she walked through so much,” Eliana Turan, director of development at the center, told the Flame. “And she still shined such a light. She only gave kindness.”
“She commanded attention,” recalled Tamika Jones, a member of the Trans Wellness group. “She was tall, like me, and she was a spirited girl. … One day she would have purple hair, one day pink hair, and always an outfit to go with those colors.”
“Another Black transgender woman has been killed in this country. When will this violence end?” Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said in the news release. “Tierramarie should have had the chance to live the life she wanted to live. As we continue to see so much violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people, everyone must speak up and take action to end the stigma and fatal violence that often targets our community.”
A remembrance of Lewis’s life will be held Thursday at 1 p.m. at the corner of East 79th Street and Cedar Avenue in Cleveland.