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Amarey Lej the First Known Victim of Lethal Anti-Trans Violence in 2022

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday January 6, 2022

2021 ended with a record-setting number of transgender victims of lethal violence. The new year had barely begun when the killing resumed: Amarey Lej, a Black trans woman, was shot to death early on Jan. 1 in Pittsburgh, local newspaper Pittsburgh City Paper reported.

"Police said they responded to the 1300 block of Wood Street in Wilkinsburg around 6 a.m. on Jan. 1 and found Lej's body in the street."

Local support organization SisTers PGH issued a statement in which they remembered Lej as "a bright woman and former student at Woodland Hills."

"We at SisTers PGH would like to send her fellow classmates our deepest condolences, but also our deepest gratitude, as you rose in protection of Amarey when she needed it most," the statement continued.

The account recalled that the area has seen a number of trans murders over the last year.

"Chyna Carrillo was killed in Lawrence County, an hour north of Pittsburgh, on Feb. 18, 2021 and siblings Jasmine Cannady and Jeffrey 'JJ' Bright were killed in Ambridge, just 30 minutes from the city, on Feb. 22, 2021."

"Audura Belle also died earlier the same month due to lack of health care, according to statements from her friends and family," the article continued. "Angel Naira was killed in Aliquippa in November."

The story followed an account on local CBS affiliate KDKA, which reported on "a female victim" who "was found dead in Wilkinsburg," but the victim's status as a transgender woman was either not known at the time or was left out of the story.

2021's record-setting total of 51 known transgender and gender-non-conforming victims was updated continuously by the Human Rights Campaign, which noted that the true number might well be even higher thanks to institutional misreporting and misgendering of victims by law enforcement and the media.

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.