HRC Mourns Keanna Mattel, Transgender Woman Killed in Detroit

by HRC Staff

HRC mourns the death of Keanna Mattel, a 35-year-old Black transgender woman killed in Detroit.

Post submitted by former Editorial Producer, Print and Digital Media Rokia Hassanein

HRC mourns the death of Keanna Mattel, a 35-year-old Black transgender woman killed in Detroit on Dec. 7.

Police found Mattel, who also went by the name Kelly Stough, dead of a gunshot wound in her Palmer Park neighborhood, according to INTO. LGBTQ advocates who spoke to INTO suggested that Mattel may have been specifically targeted. Police have arrested a 46-year-old male suspect.

In 2015, after the tragic murder of Amber Monroe, Mattel spoke to The Guardian about the epidemic of violence against transgender women and the police’s response to it.

“The police are unaware with our struggle so they have no sympathy for us,” she said. “Nobody ever asks, what happened to that person to get here?”

While police did not initially identify Mattel as the victim, friends and LGBTQ advocates spread word of her passing.

Mattel’s friends posted on social media, noting that she was “a sweet, caring individual” and “a beautiful spirit” who was “loved.” Another friend posted that Mattel had a “beautiful bold personality” and was like a mother to her. Friends also posted videos remembering Mattel as an active member in Detroit’s ballroom scene, calling her “a sweetheart and beautiful character and personality.”

In the wake of Mattel’s death, friends will be hosting a benefit show on Dec. 12 to help raise funds for funeral expenses.

We must listen to her words and address the factors that continue to foster an epidemic of violence targeting transgender people, particularly transgender women of color. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects trans women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive.

Alarmingly, Mattel’s death adds to the growing list of a transgender or gender-expansive person killed in 2018.

In November 2018, HRC Foundation released "A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2018," a heartbreaking report honoring the transgender people killed in 2018 and detailing the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence. To learn more, please follow this link.

To learn more about HRC’s transgender justice work, visit