The staff of Basic Rights Oregon was heartbroken to learn of the death of Gigi Pierce, a transgender woman, Monday night in downtown Portland. Gigi’s suspected killer was taken into custody that same evening.
We’re still waiting for many details of this tragedy, but here is what we’ve learned thus far. Gigi was reportedly struggling with houselessness at the time of her death. Twenty-eight years old, she had come to Portland from her hometown of Boise, ID. Gigi was in the early stages of her transition, and has been described by friends as “incredibly loving, gifted, [and] beautiful.”
Sadly, Gigi’s story is not unique.
Transgender people come to Portland to feel safe, and to access healthcare and resources that may not be available in the places they’ve left. We hear frequently from our transgender friends, colleagues, and volunteers that they could not safely live out and open as themselves in their home states.
Though they come here for a haven, newly arrived trans people encounter a housing crisis here in Portland, with few affordable renting options. Moreover, while Portland is LGBTQ friendly in many ways, these new transplants still face the persistent bias of transphobia when seeking work and housing. According to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, transgender community members are twice as likely to be unemployed and twice as likely to live in poverty as their non-transgender peers. Additionally, one in five respondents to the survey reported having been houseless during their lives. These difficult outcomes are only increased for transgender people of color.
This tragic story fits another disturbing trend in our society – the awful rise of violence against transgender women, and particularly transgender women of color, under the Trump administration. 2017 was deadliest year on record for transgender people, with at least 26 community members being murdered, 24 of whom were transgender people of color. Sadly, 2018 is keeping pace, with Gigi being the eleventh murder victim.
While all of us at Basic Rights Oregon mourn the loss Gigi Pierce, we take heart in our state being one to which transgender people are drawn. We rejoice at being part of a transgender community that’s gorgeous in its diversity, vibrant in its resistance and tireless in its challenge to systems that seek to oppress its members on the basis of transphobia, homophobia and racism. We won’t rest until the all the Gigis in our state can truly thrive.
This page will be updated as we learn more information about Gigi’s life. We know many local LGBTQ organizations are planning community actions and vigils to mourn and honor Gigi, and we will be updating this post with details as needed. If you are planning an event, please reach out with the details and we will add it to this page.
Q Center Vigil – Friday, May 25 2018
4115 N Mississippi Ave, Portland, OR 97217
This week we have been rocked by the loss of three beloved community members.
The first person to be named legally agender in the United States committed suicide on May 18.
A local community therapist who dedicated her practice to the care and healing of queer and trans people living at multiple intersections of struggle, died unexpectedly on Sunday, May 20.
Also, a trans woman known and beloved in her Portland community was shot and killed in downtown Portland on May 21.
Our hearts are with those closest to our three friends who have passed away. Our thoughts are also with the friends and family of a Portland State University student who was the victim of an apparent hate crime early last week and is currently in critical condition.
Please join us at a community vigil and altar honoring of their lives this Friday, May 25 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. at the Q Center front doors. From 6:00-8:00 p.m., you are welcomed to an open space for conversations on grieving and loss. Together, we will honor these beloved friends and community members and support one another.