CARBONDALE — Many are carrying heavy hearts into the weekend as they honor their transgender family members and friends who have died — whether it be due to violence, discrimination, or through the daily struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
Transgender Awareness Week, which runs the week of Nov. 13, comes to a close this Saturday with a Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in Carbondale.
One of the many names on people’s hearts Saturday is Lavender Kieran, a 23-year-old who tragically died by suicide earlier this year, said Jennifer Davolt, a good friend.
“To anyone that knew her, there’s going to be this lasting impression of the ideal human, of an approach to the world we should all strive for,” Davolt said. “I know for myself I’m still striving to be more like her every day. More patient and more open.”
Lavender died on June 14, according to Rivanna Jihan, her sibling.
People are also reading…
She was a staple in the Carbondale community — both within queer spaces and outside of them.
Lavender lived radically and that spilled over into every aspect of her life, Jihan said. She was always present when spending time with loved ones — which is one of the reasons she was close to so many.
One person she meant the world to was Davolt.
“All that time we spent together last winter looking back is so special and sacred to me,” Davolt said. “She would come by two or three time a week. We would spend hours making dinner, jamming on our instruments, maybe throwing on some music or a movie and just talking. It’s the cumulative memory of all that time we spent one on one in that period and how much it meant to me because I was otherwise alone. I let her get closer to me than maybe I’ve ever let other people get.”
Davolt and Lavender met in 2016 at a party and their relationship continued to grow closer over the next five years.
The two bonded over countless things like music, philosophy, their pets and their shared community and friends, said Davolt.
Lavender was the first person Davolt would share her new songs with. And she was a natural creative in her own right as well.
“I loved the way that Lavender was constantly creating,” Jihan said. “Some of that was dancing, painting, or music. Some of that was communities. Everywhere she went and everyone she met was a creation of that moment, of that relationship, of that space.”
She was involved in the creation of the Carbondale Tool Library, a collection of used tools people can rent out like they would a library book, according to Jihan.
When the library received a broken tool for people to rent, Lavender was the one to repair it, Jihan said.
Social justice, politics
Lavender lived her life heavily involved in the political sphere and social justice as well, Jihan said.
She was a member of the Flyover Social Center, an activist and community resource center, where she fought on a variety of social fronts. She traveled to Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest and learn from those battling the Dakota Access Pipeline, according to Flyover.
“Lavender had a tremendous effect on everyone who was lucky enough to know her,” Flyover said in a statement to The Southern. “She was courageous, wise, playful and attentive to the needs and feelings of others, and just utterly herself at all times. She seized her life as her own, and set out on an adventure to find the people who could embrace and support the world she needed to build.”
Her against the world
According to friends and family, the last year of Lavender’s life was filled with struggle.
In July 2020, Lavender was pulled over by police on a traffic stop after pulling out of a gas station parking lot because her lights weren’t on yet, Jihan said.
Ultimately, she was charged with a drug-related felony, Jihan said. That really started a domino effect that contributed to her suicide, Jihan added.
Lavender was subjected to drug tests as part of probation, and because of it all, it was difficult to travel to see family, said Jihan.
On top of that, Lavender was dealing with struggles that “trans femme people face in a world that is still intensely trans misogynistic,” said Jihan.
Throughout all of this she was still creating music, art, and still making future plans, said Jihan.
Her final days
Nine days before Lavender’s suicide, Davolt said she had received a message from another friend of Lavender’s saying they were concerned about her because she wasn’t responding to phone calls.
Davolt said she rushed to Lavender’s work to see if she was there. There, she discovered she had quit in the middle of a shift the previous week, Davolt said.
Davolt rushed to Lavender’s home and banged on the door, but there was no answer, Davolt said.
Eventually, Lavender called her back, and Davolt said she was able to tell her what she really meant to her.
“I’m just really glad that I got to tell her that ‘I was looking for you because I was broken up about you because I love you. I care about you and you’re my best friend,’” Davolt said.
Lavender said she was fine, according to Davolt, and explained all of it away. The two later went to Marion for a show and then to a friend's house.
The next time the two hung out was at a party at Davolt’s house, and it was on the last night of Lavender’s life.
The two didn’t get to talk much, but that night with her and their friends felt like home, Davolt said.
Lavender was among one of the last to leave, and Davolt regrets letting her do so.
“I had no idea how things were going to turn out the next day,” said Davolt. “I wish I had insisted that she stay here instead of going. I don’t know that it would have even made a difference if she slept at my house.”
Lavender’s death is only one of the many trans lives that were lost in the last year.
This year has been called the deadliest year on record for trans people as the Human Rights Campaign has recorded 45 homicides to date.
Suicide is its own deadly issue. About 81% of survey respondents reported having seriously thought about suicide in their lifetime, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.
And 41% reported attempting suicide at some point in their life.
Day of Remembrance
The Rainbow Café LGBTQ Center is hoping to curb these statistics and honor those who have died in the community with their Transgender Day of Remembrance event.
The event is at the town square pavilion in Carbondale at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.
Benito Goff, manager of the Rainbow Café, hopes the event will help people acknowledge and accept transgender individuals.
“Some of us may not strictly be out so it may be hard to believe that we’re an everyday presence in your life but we do exist,” said Goff. “We are your family, your friends, your teachers, your siblings. We’re people and we just want to live. We’re fighting for human rights and dignity.”
Lavender’s legacy is something Jihan would like people to keep in mind at the event.
Her legacy is one of connection, Jihan said.
“Connection means seeing people for who they are and validating them,” said Jihan. “Saying their names correctly and their pronouns, accepting them in all the spaces where we are. Seeing people is connecting with them. We can change the world through those connections.”
As the community mourns one of their own, the goal of the day is to slow the rate of trans death and suffering so people are not left speechless like Davolt said she was.
“I’d let her know that she is the glue that was holding this community together in a lot of ways,” said Davolt. “I’d tell her that blouse was nice and that I looked up to her as much as she looked up to me.”