“I noticed the birthmark on her cheek and told her it was beautiful,” Harper told PGN through his tears. “We talked for four hours that day and have been friends ever since.”
Young had recently come out as transgender and moved to Philadelphia to find other people in the community. She started living with Harper and his partner, Jonathan Carton. Harper remembered the pair used to sing the Queen song “Bicycle Race” whenever they walked around the city.
“She was a light in a dark room,” Harper said, noting Young moved out in 2011 and found a roommate in Frankford. “It was us against the world.”
Young, 25, died over the weekend after suffering several stab wounds to the neck and chest late Saturday night in Frankford, police confirmed Feb. 23.
The investigation into Young’s death is ongoing with the homicide unit, Philadelphia police said, noting the motive is unknown. Anyone with information is asked to call 215-686-3334. There is a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
According to authorities, police responded to a report of a “stabbing on the highway” near 4900 Griscom St. about 11:50 p.m. Feb. 20. They searched the area and found Young in the 4800 block of Penn Street. She was suffering from multiple stab wounds. Police said they transported Young to Aria Health Frankford, where officials pronounced her dead at 12:21 a.m. Feb. 21.
Young is the latest in an epidemic of violence against transgender women of color in the nation, and is the first trans woman killed this year in Philadelphia. Last year, Kiesha Jenkins, 22, was fatally shot in Logan in October; and London Kiki Chanel, 21, was stabbed to death in North Philadelphia in May.
“This constant barrage of loss is devastating,” said Nellie Fitzpatrick, director of the Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs. “Maya joins a long list of names that just continues to grow. It certainly isn’t slowing down. This epidemic of violence requires real societal and cultural change.”
On a Facebook page apparently belonging to Young, she listed her hometown as Vineland, N.J., and said she attended Buena Regional High School in Atlantic County. She had been living in Northeast Philadelphia.
“I’m a kind of go getter,” read a post in a section of the page titled “About Maya.” “I focus on what I want, and I’m a direct person.”
Fitzpatrick said transgender women of color often find themselves “in situations where violence finds them at a young age” because they’re not safe in school, not able to stay in stable housing and don’t have access to meaningful health care. She recommended that those in need contact Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 or explore trans support options at the Mazzoni Center by visiting http://www.mazzonicenter.org/health-care/trans-care.
The Trans-Health Information Project at GALAEI: A Queer Latin@ Social Justice Organization plans to host a Trans* Community Discussion to talk about reducing risks and developing resources. It will be held 6 p.m. March 11 at GALAEI, 149 W. Susquehanna Ave.
“It’s a transgender issue, but it’s a Philadelphia issue as well,” said Naiymah Sanchez, coordinator of Trans-Health. “There’s so much violence in the city.”
Sanchez said the community needs to develop resources for transgender people in all parts of Philadelphia. She noted Frankford has a growing LGBT population.
Sanchez said Trans-Health participants started posting and calling about Young over the weekend.
“We saw some kind of headline about a man stabbed to death in Frankford,” she said, noting people who said they were friends with Young tagged her when posting about the news. “We didn’t put two and two together until we visited Maya’s Facebook page.”
“Nothing is confirmed as far as why she was murdered, who murdered her or what she looked like when she was murdered,” Sanchez said.
Fitzpatrick said some confusion arose around the identity of the stabbing victim because police did not immediately release the person’s gender. She said police were following protocol to first notify Young’s next-of-kin. Fitzpatrick added Deputy Commissioner Myron Patterson had been in contact with her throughout the early investigation, knowing the matter would be important to the local LGBT community.
Fitzpatrick said that discussion about trans issues is needed continuously, and not just after the event of a crime.
“We’ve got to get to a place where transgender people are able to talk about themselves, their successes and their satisfying lives,” she said.
Harper, who shared his home with Young for a year, said he wants people to remember that Young was smart, outgoing and strong-willed. She liked to play video games and the card game Magic: The Gathering, he said, adding she also loved animals.