HRC Mourns Courtney “Eshay” Key, Black Trans Woman Killed in Chicago

by HRC staff

Post submitted by Viet Tran (he/him/they/them), former HRC Press Secretary

HRC is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Courtney “Eshay” Key, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman killed in Chicago, Illinois, on December 25. HRC has now tracked at least 43 deaths this year of transgender and gender non-conforming people. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

According to the CBS, friends and family of Courtney described her as the “life of the party” and as “hilarious and determined.” Beverly Ross, a lifelong friend of Eshay, said “she wanted to be something. She wanted to beat the odds.” Many friends and family are sharing how much they will miss Eshay on social media.

Local LGBTQ advocates are calling for authorities to thoroughly investigate this crime, including an investigation into whether or not this was a bias-motivated crime.

According to the Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, in an injustice compounding this tragedy, Key was misgendered in some media reports. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment too often seen from media, law enforcement and our highest elected officials. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people.

Eshay Key was a vibrant and beautiful woman who had a big heart and big dreams. Eshay did not deserve to have her life cut short — none of the transgender and gender non-conforming people killed this year deserved that. No one should face discrimination or violence because of who they are, what they wear or how they look. To truly end the epidemic of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, we must work together to dismantle the stigma and bias that so many face. It will take all of us.

Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

HRC has officially recorded more violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people than any year since we began tracking this violence in 2013. Previously, the highest known number of deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people over a 12-month period was in 2017, when we reported 31 people violently killed.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.

In order to work towards this goal and combat stigma against transgender and non-binary people, HRC has collaborated with WarnerMedia on a PSA campaign to lift up their voices and stories. Learn more and watch the PSAs here.

In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people. HRC, Media Matters and the Trans Journalists Association have also partnered on an FAQ for reporters writing about anti-trans violence. For more information about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit