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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Eisha Love: Trans survivor reflects on prison, life-changing incident and the future
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 2855 times since Wed Feb 22, 2023
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All it takes is one pivotal moment to change the course of one's life.

No one knows this better than trans woman Eisha Love.

In 2012, on Chicago's West Side, Love struck a man with a car; the man had assaulted her and Love told detectives that she hit the man "deliberately in self-defense," according to a Windy City Times article that ran in 2015.

What ensued were legal quagmires and obstacles that included a grand-jury indictment of "attempted first degree murder without lawful justification with intent to kill." In addition, an initial three-month stay at Cook County Jail's medium-security Division XI became an almost-four-year incarceration at the all-male super maximum-security Division IX—all without a trial actually taking place.

Love said that during her time in Division IX, security guards treated her and two other trans women with little or no respect. In addition, "They would put boys into my cell," she said during a separate Windy City Times interview. "We were supposed to be housed according to us as being transgender but there would be times when the jail got to be over-capacity. Being in that predicament, you never know what the [chances are] of them doing something to you. It was very uncomfortable."

Eventually, Chicago-Kent College of Law Daniel T. Coyne came to Love's rescue after he received a call from San Francisco Chronicle sports editor and transgender activist Christina Kahrl. Love ultimately accepted a plea deal of guilty to a single felony count of aggravated battery on a public way and was released in December 2015.

"Being in prison for so long, I was hoping people could understand the gist of how things went," Love recently told Windy City Times. "Trans people have to deal with consequences on a daily basis—people antagonizing us. Even back at Crane High School, people used to tease me because I wanted to explore my differences and just be me.

"I wasn't trying to intentionally harm this guy [in 2012]. I wanted to make a valid point. We [trans people] have to deal with these consequences consistently. I wanted people to see that I had to protect my life because it was at risk. I was sitting in jail, wondering if people would really understand what I was going through."

And Love added something not many people knew before—but which underscores the financial difficulties many people, especially trans individuals, go through because of a lack of other options: When the March 29, 2012 incident occurred, she was trying to procure money through sex work to get her mother a birthday gift.

"I was young and I was trying to get my mother a surprise for her birthday," Love said. "I thought I could use the money to do something good.

"I didn't even antagonize [the attacker]; it was Tiffany [Gooden, a trans woman who was killed in August 2012]. She knew of him … but he went in rage mode, saying, 'I'm not with that gay-ass shit.' But now, looking back, I understand that many Black men have a problem with [toxic] masculinity."

Now, years later, Love (who now resides in the city's South Side), 33, is piecing her life together—slowly.

When asked if she is in a place that she considers "normal," Love responded, "I don't really think that 'normal' is even something I can consider at this place and time—still. After getting out of jail, I had to rediscover myself; I had to rediscover Eisha. And I had to find a house, a job and a new way of life. When you've been in jail for so long, you have to catch up with life—even with social media."

One aspect of Love's life that she's discovered is activism, although she see doesn't see herself as a traditional advocate: "I take on the role of an activist but I feel that I'm a person who's willing to share; I'm a storyteller. I [hope] to embrace and inspire trans women who may be in a similar situation. I never knew that [activism] was something I was going to do; but, over time, I have stepped forward because I've learned the process of activism. I have always had [leadership] aspects, though, because I've always done what I want to do."

Love's skill for storytelling has landed her in film. She has already been in ACLU's award-winning short-film series Trans in America and she's in a second film—a documentary about the eventual alteration of Illinois' name-change bill, which many trans-rights advocates said was discriminatory. "What I've discovered is that I love storytelling," Love said. "It can be so impactful; people can relate to you and I like that aspect. It's a magnificent way to touch people."

This foray in film is somewhat in line with Love's ultimate dream: "What I love is the uniqueness of us, so I've always wanted to be a model. It's not that I want to be in the limelight; I'm just very content and comfortable in my skin." That comfort is reflected in Love's affinity for exposure and social media: "I have three phones and a notepad," she said, laughing. "I love to video myself."

And with this talk taking place during Black History Month, the perspective shifted to what it's like to be Black and trans in America. "I think our ancestors had it harder," Love began. "But for me—being Black and trans—I [am viewed as] angry, or I can't have an opinion or that I'm not the brightest star in the bunch. Being Black and trans comes with a lot; it's like I have an 'X' on my back. There are all these stigmas."

As for what Love has learned about herself through her ordeals, she gave an answer that many who have been in tough situations can probably relate to. "I learned that I can endure anything," she said while crediting her strength to her mother. "I've just got to have faith. The things I've gone through have made me that much stronger. They built me up."

This article shared 2855 times since Wed Feb 22, 2023
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