Murdered Trans Woman's Family Celebrates Her Life

Lamia Beard was her high-spirited, joke-cracking self while hanging out with family at her mother’s house in Norfolk, Va., on the evening of Jan. 10.

She and one of her brothers were getting the upper hand against her sister, Kiara Parker, and her husband during a game of Spades. They played cards, danced and sang into the night. Lamia, 30, had the best voice in family. She knew how to belt out a tune when the time called for it, as Parker remembers. Her favorite singer was Beyoncé.

“When we were in high school, Lamia was in the chorus,” Parker told AlterNet. “People would pay Lamia to sing at funerals and weddings.”

Parker would meet up with Lamia that following Monday and that would be the last time she would see her sister alive. Today, as she and the rest of the family prepare to bury Lamia, Parker is still in shock over her sister's murder and has no idea why anyone would want to hurt her. Lamia was found mortally wounded from a gunshot wound early Saturday morning on Jan. 17. She was transported to a local hospital where she later died.

Some of the news reports that were aired and published about Lamia’s death upset the family, especially the ones that listed her criminal history.

“I was mortified,” Parker said. “What Lamia did 5, 10, 15 years ago has nothing to do with this case. In fact, if it had anything to do with it, they should have put that in the article. It didn’t have anything to do with her being shot and murdered.”

Lamia’s younger sister, Kendall Beard, echoed Parker’s sentiments.

“She didn’t carry herself as the type of lady they portrayed her as in that news article,” Kendall said. “I didn’t like it.”

Parker and her sister, Kendall Beard, who are speaking on behalf of the family, describe Lamia as a sweet, kind person who really didn’t have any lofty dreams; she just wanted to live her life. Part of that life happened to be being transgender

“Lamia was very simple,” Parker said. “She just wanted to get her life together. Being transgender, it was very hard for Lamia and it affected her. She would get discouraged about applying for different jobs. It came to a point and time when Lamia just wanted people to accept her for who she was and to find a job so she could live on her own.”

Parker described Lamia as a very smart woman who spoke fluent French and was an avid reader. She favored the encyclopedia. Lamia was very active in band in high school and was very gifted with instruments, especially the oboe, piccolo and the flute.

Lamia earned a full scholarship to a college in Florida but didn’t accept it because she didn’t want to live that far away from home, Parker says. Lamia attended Norfolk State University and majored in music education. She wanted to be a music teacher but Parker says an issue with school records forced her to leave school after her sophomore year.  

In the ensuing years, Lamia struggled to find work and depended on friends and family for support. No matter how hard she tried to support herself financially, people would not give her a shot. Parker would accompany Lamia around town as she applied for jobs, any kind of job, including fast food and clerical. In most cases, the look on hiring managers’ faces signaled that she wasn’t going to be considered.

“You could tell,” Parker said. “I’m not transgender, but you could feel it like, ‘They’re not going to call her back. People would get hired for jobs she applied for. She was highly intelligent. Lamia would sit up in the house and read the encyclopedia. She wasn’t a dumb person. But sometimes when people see you and they’re like, OK , and trying to figure out who you are. People size you up and think, ‘I don’t want that person working at my store.’ People at clothing stores and fast food places discriminate.”

Lamia would stay with friends and family because she could never save enough money to rent her own place. What Lamia did have going for her, Parker said, was a close-knit, loving family who embraced her.

Parker couldn’t speak for everyone but the core family-- their mother, father, sisters and brothers--loved her for who she was. “Lamia used to brag to friends that she had a family who accepted her because a lot of people in the LGBT community did not have their own family to accept them,” she said.

But no matter how much discrimination Lamia would face, she never feared living in her truth and standing up for herself. Three years ago when Lamia lost her ID, Parker took her to the DMV for a replacement. The clerk at the desk saw Lamia dressed as herself and didn’t want to take her photo.

“Lamia was like, ‘this is who I am. Why would you have me take off my make-up? If I get pulled over by the police, I won’t have my wig and make up off. This is what I wear everyday,’” Parker remembers her sister saying.

She didn’t get her ID that day but Lamia didn’t give up. Parker said she took Lamia back to the DMV. After speaking to the manager, Lamia ended up getting her photo ID, make up and all.

Lamia was staying with Kendall the day before she was killed Saturday morning. Kendall said that Lamia wanted to travel the world eventually but that her goal for 2015 was to find a job and save enough money to move into her own place so that her nieces and nephews could visit and watch movies.

Earlier that Friday, Lamia and Kendall went to the nail shop; they both got French manicures. Afterwards, they hopped in Kendall’s car and drove around town running errands. She remembers Lamia repeating the same words of advice she’d heard anytime they hung out.

“People out here are cruel,” she said. “You have to be prepared.”

Kiara says the Norfolk Police Department has been calling regularly to ask questions as they search for Lamia’s killer. She’s confident they’re doing what they can to get justice for her sister.

On Monday, the family celebrated Lamia’s life at a homegoing. An online fundraiser set up to pay for her funeral expenses was fully funded Sunday night. Kiara wasn't sure she'd have the strength to speak. Kendall hoped to say a few words of affection about Lamia. The family is still in shock.

Most people will never know Lamia, but Kiara said all anyone needs to know about her sister is this: “She was a loving person.”

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