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Watch: Trans Woman of Color D'isaya Monaee Smith Murdered in Illinois

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday September 17, 2021

Violence has claimed another transgender woman's life, this time in Illinois, with the shooting death of D'isaya Monaee Smith, NBC Chicago reports.

Smith was staying at a motel in the village of Dolton over Labor Day weekend when she was shot to death in the early hours of Sept. 6. Her friends had gone out for the evening, and when they returned they found Smith dead.

Smith's mother "described the crime scene as gruesome and believes her daughter struggled with the gunman," NBC Chicago reported.

"At the hotel room door you can tell the struggle was at the door it was not inside the hotel room," Latrine Banks told the news channel. "There's blood, there's like a trail of blood at the entrance way right there from the hallway area."

Smith was the second child Banks has lost to gun violence, the article noted. Her son was killed in 2018.

"Smith transitioned after graduating from high school in 2014," the news story detailed. "Family accepted and embraced her new identity, and say she was finally comfortable in her own skin. They never imagined her life would end like this."

No suspects are in custody yet. Banks appealed to the public for answers: "Whoever knows anything about my baby's murder please tell," she said. "Ya'll took the best thing ever from me."

"She loved to dress, she loved to party, she loved to cook, she loved to do hair," Banks recalled. "She loved to take care of people."

It's uncertain as of yet whether the violence that took Smith's life was motivated by transphobia. "I really don't know if it was a hate crime," Banks told NBC Chicago. "I really don't know if it was friends that you know, envied her. I don't know, I really don't know."

The Dolton police echoed that, telling NBC Chicago, "there's no evidence that leads to speculation of a hate crime at this point."

Either way, the ongoing epidemic of fatal anti-trans violence shows little sign of slowing. Smith's death marks the 36th known instance this year of lethal violence directed at transgender and gender nonconforming people in the U.S. and its territories, the Human Rights Campaign noted.

Smith's murder follows the murder of 25-year-old Pooh Johnson, who was gunned down on Aug. 23 in Shreveport, Louisiana.

2020 was the worst year on record, with 44 trans and gender nonconforming people murdered, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

The actual numbers might very well be even higher, the HRC pointed out, noting that "too often these stories go unreported — or misreported," thanks in large part to misgendering and deadnaming by law enforcement, the media, and victims' families.

"In previous years, the majority of these people were Black and Latinx transgender women," the HRC added, a trend that continues.

Watch the NBC Chicago news clip below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.