Transgender Community Unites in the Face of Violence


Photo courtesy of Jordan Herndon

A vigil service was organized Sept. 8 to celebrate the life of former RHS student Bailey Reeves. Family, friends and members of the community sang songs and shared stories of the young transgender teen.

Elenna Mach & Colleen Barrett, Editors-in-Chief

Dozens of people gathered at Bauer Recreational Center Sept. 8, surrounding candles that spelled out “Bailey,” admiring the photos that lined the sidewalk and releasing white balloons into the dark night sky to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of former RHS student Bailey Reeves. 

Seventeen year-old Reeves passed away on Labor Day after being shot in Northeast Baltimore, marking the 17th transgender person to be violently killed this year nationwide. So far in 2019, 21 transgender people have been fatally shot or killed in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign. As these numbers grow, the LGBTQ community emphasizes unity in the face of violence. 

The aforementioned Rockville vigil service was organized by students and included stories and advice shared by friends, family and Reeves’ former teachers, reminiscing on old memories that made Reeves who she was and offering guidance to the attendees. 

“[Members of the] Trans community that didn’t know Bailey at all were there and they talked and they invited parents to talk,” RHS Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (SAGA) Club sponsor Rebecca Miller said. “They wanted some guidance and input, and they asked if the parents had learned anything growing up with kids that were trans or themselves being trans, but mostly people just shared stories about Bailey. There was a lot of sharing.” 

Another vigil was hosted by the transgender community in Baltimore two days prior, Sept. 6, where nearly 50 people gathered in celebrating her life by holding hands and showing unity and support for the LGBTQ community. On the corner of North Avenue and Charles St., the group sung “Lean on Me” and chanted “enough is enough” as an attendee hung up a photo of Reeves, according to a Sept. 6 Baltimore Sun article. 

Aside from Miller’s attendance at the Rockville vigil, the RHS SAGA Club did not do anything specific to commemorate Bailey’s passing. Reeves passed away prior to the first SAGA meeting of the school year; her death was brought up at the initial meeting, but club members did not discuss it further. Currently, the club is focusing on rebuilding after losing momentum at the end of last year and planning Ally Week to promote awareness and mental health-related awareness, Miller said. 

Like Reeves, the victims of transgender homicides in 2019 were disproportionately transgender women of color. There have been questions concerning whether or not she was targeted because of her gender identity, Baltimore Police Department representatives told Out Magazine in a September 9 article. Nonetheless, she was one of at least three transgender women to pass away due to gun violence in Maryland this year, according to the same Sept. 6 Baltimore Sun article. 

“When transphobia mixes with misogyny [and] racism, it can result in fatal violence,” Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign said in the Baltimore Sun article. “That’s why almost every single trans death is a woman and someone of color.”

Reeves is one of over 140 transgender victims to die as a result of violence since 2013; about two-thirds of whom were killed by gun violence. The rise of transgender killings has raised calls for lawmakers to strengthen hate crime legislation and bar the use of the so-called gay- or trans-panic defense for people charged with attacks, according to a Sept. 27 New York Times article. Moreover, this violence has caught the attention of several Democratic Presidential candidates, including Sen. Cory Booker. 

“We do not talk enough about trans Americans, especially trans AfricanAmericans and the especially high rates of murder right now,” Booker said on Twitter after the Democratic debate in Miami in June. “It’s not enough just to be on the Equality Act. We need to have a president who will fight to protect LGBTQ Americans every day.”

Reeves was part of the Rockville community throughout her childhood and spent her freshman year at RHS before moving to a different MCPS high school. She participated in D.C. Pride Parades and was active in the local LGBTQ community, one of Reeves’ lifelong friends, senior Jordan Herndon said. Herndon was especially impacted by her death as they were friends since kindergarten and she had supported Reeves throughout her transition. 

“Personally, I just didn’t know how to feel [about her death]. I was still shocked that it was true [that she died] but at the same time, I was just sad,” Herndon said. “Bailey made an impact on me, and I saw things differently. She was the funniest and sweetest person that you could be around; to me, it wasn’t fair for her to die so young, she was a child with so much to live for.”