Trans icon Elie Che moved to New York because UK healthcare is so woeful. She was found dead less than a month later
London’s queer community held a vigil for Black trans icon Elie Che last weekend, after the 23-year-old was found dead in New York on 31 August.
Che, a model, activist and writer who was a fixture of London’s queer scene, where they sometimes danced at LGBT+ strip night Harpies, was found on Orchard Beach shore in the Bronx. Che had recently moved to the US to find work and community while they underwent hormone therapy.
On Sunday (6 September), London’s queer community held a vigil for Elie Che on Hampstead Heath.
“Our community has lost one of the bravest, kindest, and most beautiful souls we’ve ever known. Elie Che was a poet, a dancer, a friend and an inspiration to many. We are heartbroken,” said London Trans+ Pride, who organised the vigil.
“You rest in paradise sweet angel, you’ve left your mark on this world,” London Trans+ Pride continued, adding that London’s second-ever Trans Pride – which will be held on 12 September – will be held in Che’s honour.
“We will fight to make this world have the kindness and respect for Black trans women that it should’ve had for you. You’ll be missed and our memories of you cherished forever.”
Harpies added that it was “devastated” to learn that Elie Che, who used she and they pronouns, had died.
“She was kind, sweet, breathtakingly-gorgeous, but most of all, she was brave,” Harpies said in an Instagram post.
“She shone like the brightest star in the sky, she was so vocal about trans rights and always stood up for what she believed in.
“Elie was just 23 when she left us. Things need to change for trans people, and most importantly, Black trans femmes.”
rip elie che. you were a shining light to so many. i am grateful to have shared a stage & a dancefloor with you. hope you are at peace wherever you are. 🕊 pic.twitter.com/zH8590y7gq
— the obviously attractive radam ridwan (@radamridwan) September 1, 2020
Rest In Peace to my sis Elie Che. Her body was found on a bronx beach early monday. You will not be forgotten. Thank you for showing up and showing out. A vision of beauty. #BlackTransLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/gBsriulwa7
— 🌼🌸SIS THEE ACTIVIST🌸🌼 (@ucancallmesis) September 2, 2020
In a fundraiser that Elie Che posted just a month before they died, they wrote that they were moving back to the US because they didn’t have access to healthcare in the UK and desperately needed to transition.
“I am a Black trans femme who needs money for survival and for transition costs,” Che said. “As some of you may know transitioning is a long very expensive journey.”
They continued: “I think people are finally understanding this and the issues among Black trans women who have an average lifespan of 35 years old, I want to make it past that.
“Yesterday I announced that I’ll be moving to New York, I’m not doing this for the look of it. As a Black trans woman who is a fashion enthusiast, NYC seems like the appropriate place for me to live and thrive in while I’m going through my hormonal changes because I just began HRT… also NYC has a community for queer people of colour.”
In memory of Elie Che. The photos I made with them in Wales spring of last year. pic.twitter.com/LE0Ccq0dba
— Tara Violet (@tara_violet) September 2, 2020
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On the day they died, Che had called a friend and said they were going to the beach. When the didn’t return, the friend reported them missing and police later found their body on the beach.
A coroner has ruled their death accidental drowning, according to New York’s Patch magazine.