2021 was the deadliest year for crime against the Trans community. What can we learn from Rita Hester’s story, the woman who inspired Transgender Day of Remembrance?
Rita Hester was a wonderful woman, who inspired Transgender Day of Remembrance. She grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, and was the youngest of five children. Her family was supportive of her choice to transition. However, the world was not as accepting which resulted in her moving to Boston where she found a community of people who lifted her up and often spoke highly of her beauty, musical talents, and exuberance.
The day Rita was killed
Typically, Rita would return home to Connecticut to spend Thanksgiving with her family. However, in 1998, she decided to stay in Boston. Rita was known to frequent different clubs in her area where she would perform as a singer. Earlier in the day of November 28, Rita went to her friend, Brenda Wynne’s home to watch ice skating on TV. Later that evening, she got a call from a friend to grab a drink at one of Rita’s favorite local bars, Silhouettes. They made plans to meet up at 7PM. However, Rita never made it to Silhouettes.
When she was discovered
Some time that evening, on November 28th, 1998, Rita was murdered.One of Rita’s neighbors called 9-1-1 about a domestic fight inside her apartment. When police arrived, Rita was barely alive as a result of 20 stab wounds to her chest. Her neighbor recalls that it took a long time for police to enter her apartment despite the back door being open. Unfortunately, law enforcement waited more than an hour to bring her to the hospital where she would later die from cardiac arrest—two days before her 35th birthday.
Her apartment showed no signs of forced entry and no items were missing. Police focused their investigation on her final hours, and the lot behind the apartment building where Rita lived; but ultimately, no leads were found. Additionally, news outlets would misgender Rita in the media when reporting on her death.
Where the case stands today
Currently, Rita’s case is considered ‘unsolved’, but not cold. No one has been convicted of her murder. Numerous requests to access public records related to her case have been denied. However, Rita’s case was reopened by Boston authorities in 2006 per her mother’s request.
While Rita’s case received a lot of media coverage, which often resulted in Rita being misgendered. Trans women everywhere were outraged by Rita’s story and tired of being targets within their own communities. These brave women marched the streets through Rita’s neighborhood, and Transgender Day of Remembrance was created to honor transgender homicide victims. What can we learn from Rita’s story?
If you know anything about the murder of Rita Hester, please call Crime Stoppers at (800) 494-TIPS | (800) 494-8477.