Dozens of people attended a vigil in Maryland on Tuesday to celebrate the life of Meghan Lewis, a transgender woman who was shot and killed outside of her apartment complex on December 27, allegedly following a dispute over her transgender identity.
The vigil was held at the Harford County Circuit Court in a small plaza in front of a fountain and included candles, music, hot beverages and people sharing their memories of Lewis.
“Meghan Riley Lewis was a community keystone and enthusiastic convener of spaces of connection, in addition to being a parent, an accomplished tech executive, and a veteran,” Lee Blinder, executive director and founder of Trans Maryland, told Truthout. “When she was murdered last week her death added another gut-wrenching tally to the stats of trans community murders (primarily trans women and transfeminine people).”
Lewis, 53, was a pillar in the Maryland transgender community and often worked with Maryland Safe Haven, Baltimore’s only trans-led drop-in wellness center. She also founded a patient support group to help transgender people who came to Baltimore for gender-affirming care.
“We held the vigil on Tuesday to uphold Meghan’s life, to honor all the work she did for the Baltimore LGBTQ+ community, and to remember her lively spirit. She is missed by so many,” Zosia, a close friend of Lewis, told Truthout.“We are struggling to make sense of what happened.”
“I’m not going to lie — this is hard, “ Zosia went on. “But we must work together to turn around the darkness of transphobic violence and hatred and, as Meghan always said, ‘stay sparkly’ and go forward in love, joy, and strength, as she would have wanted us to. That’s how we will carry forward her legacy.”
Days before she was murdered, Lewis offered to host a holiday dinner for transgender people who didn’t have anywhere to celebrate.
“She was a fixture in the community and loved by many. We were just chatting only a few days ago about how she was devoting her life to feeding hungry and unhoused queer people,” journalist Erin Reed wrote on social media.
In her last message to Reed, Lewis said she was going to start a monthly queer family dinner in Baltimore. “I’m going to find a place in [Baltimore] that will let me feed our shared tribe and give them a family moment,” Lewis said in the message to Reed. “No fee, just show up and eat.”
“She will always be a bright light that sought to gather those who lacked a place to rest their head, those who urgently needed resources, who sought just one person to care about them, and that person was often Meghan,” Blinder told Truthout. “Meghan did this seamlessly for many, while also supporting (practically and financially) the leadership of Maryland’s trans-led organizations. She was a friend, and a collaborator.”
Lewis was one of more than 30 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were killed by gun and interpersonal violence in 2023. Renee Lau, Maryland Safe Haven Executive Director of Senior and Disabled Housing, told WBAL-TV that she believes the case should be filed as a hate crime.
“This year we’ve seen an explosion in violent and hateful rhetoric aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, full of words that make both physical violence and discriminatory legislation more palatable for those in need of a scapegoat,” Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) President Kelley Robinson said in a report documenting violence against transgender people in 2023.
The HRC report, “The Epidemic of Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in the United States,” asserts that transgender people in the U.S. are facing a national emergency. In 2022, nearly 500 transphobic hate crimes were documented in tandem with an onslaught of anti-trans rhetoric and legislation introduced by politicians. In 2023, lawmakers introduced and enacted a record high amount of anti-trans legislation, which is expected to result in increased violence against transgender people.
“Her death should never have occurred, and we will be working in the coming days, months, and years to seek justice for her, and most importantly to ensure her work continues unabated,” Blinder told Truthout. “Through our collective effort we must deliver a world in which trans people, particularly trans women and transfeminine people, can move about in public space without fear of harm. The question remains who will join us in that quest, and my invitation is open to each person reading this. Will you join our struggle?”