Although Darius Stanton had not seen his sister, Dejanay, in 12 years, he can clearly remember how Dejanay's laugh would fill up a room. It would echo and bounce off the walls. He remembers how infectious her humor was, especially whenever they watched any of Tyler Perry's Madea movies.
Darius Stanton's funniest memory with his younger sister was when they attempted to play a baseball game with a basketball with some friends from their neighborhood in Englewood.
Dejanay was up to bat. But she unfortunately was so into the game and wanted to "swing [the bat] so bad" that she accidentally whacked herself in the follow-through.
"Just wishing I could speak with you," Darius wrote on a recent post on Dejanay's Facebook memorial profile.
Dejanay was murdered on Aug. 30, 2018. She was found with a gunshot wound to the head in an alley by people who earlier had heard the shots. Her death was ruled a homicide.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Dejanay was the 18th transgender person murdered in 2018 in the United States.
When news of her death broke, social media erupted as friends and family shared memories and expressed their grief. Local LGBTQ+ organizations also offered their condolences.
"She was so sweet," wrote LaSaia Wade, CEO of Brave Space Alliance, on a Facebook post about Dejanay. "Every time you saw her, she had a smile on her face. She was just trying to live her best life as a young girl."
Dejanay was a Chicago native, born and raised in Englewood with her mother, two sisters and two brothers. She came out to her family as trans in 2008 after she had run away from home, Darius said. After a lot of questions and a deep conversation, their family accepted her.
He described his sister as honestbrutally so.
Growing up, Dejanay would often snitch on Darius whenever he was up to no good. He chuckled to himself as he described how one time she caught him sneaking back into the house. He had gone out to hang out with friends and, to his surprise, Dejanay and their mom were patiently waiting for him at the kitchen table. They then proceeded to "grill" him on his whereabouts.
"I don't know where she got [her tattletale habits] from," Darius said.
Regardless of her snitching, Darius said he, Dejanay and his other siblings were very close and loved passing the time with each other.
Dejanay was incredibly fashionable, according to Darius and always dressed up regardless of her where she was going. Donning athleisure, a long weave, a large purse, and colorful Jordans, she loved to show off her body and often shared full-body photos on her Facebook.
"Fashion is what she made it," he said, adding that she always "looked nice."
Dejanay was also unbelievably kind.
"She was just really willing to help people [in the neighborhood] out," Darius said. "That's where we come from, and we need to extend a hand to othersthat's what she was doing."
When Darius moved away from Chicago, Dejanay cared for their mother, who was frequently ill.
She was an active trans activist and Darius believes that if she were still here, she would be fiercely fighting for her and her trans sibling's rights.
Dejanay's memory and "pure spirit" continue to live on through the people she had touched. Her memorial Facebook profile continues to be a digital platform on which family and friends can share in their grief.
On Oct. 28, Dejanay's birthday, her profile flooded with messages and photos as people shared their love for who she was and grieved for what she could've been.
"Sis was so pretty and sweet as pie," one person wrote. "Sweet voice always smiling. Keep resting and watching over us is I miss u so much."
Her mother, Valerie Griffin, posts about Dejanay on Facebook almost every day.
"Not a day goes past to my stomach and heart doesn't ache because you are not here with us in physical form," she wrote on one of the multiple posts dedicated to her. "But I do give the Lord thanks and praise for giving me the 24 yrs. of enjoying your presence. Happy birthday my diva. Mommy loves you."
Her posts are just glimpses into the depth of her grief, a digital chronology of her pain.
A few days before Dejanay's birthday, Griffin wrote, "1,095 days that you have been gone, Dada. Missing you is very HARD."
Outside of cyberspace, Dejanay's family and friends gathered for an outdoor vigil on the third anniversary of her death. They had created a massive banner in her honor. Decorated with her selfies, the trans flag colors and white doves, the attendees took photos with it as if attempting to get one last picture with Dejanay.
On her Facebook, one person wrote, "3 yrs later, we still say your name De'janay Lanorra R.I.P."
People who would like to share stories about Dejanay should email email@example.com .
See the Trans Omnibus Project introduction page for links to other stories in this series: