2017 was one of the deadliest years for trans people on record. According the Human Rights Campaign, 28 trans people were known to be killed—almost all people of color. On Tuesday night, news broke that Miss Trans America pageant founder Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien’s body was found in her home in North Adams, Massachusetts. She is thought to be the first known trans person killed this year, according to the New York Daily News.
Police told MassLive that her husband Mark Steele-Knudslien has been charged for the murder. Reportedly, the 47-year-old said he “snapped” and did “something very bad” in an interview with police on January 5. According to the site, Christa’s body was found in the basement of the couple’s home wrapped in a tarp. Although her husband turned himself in to the local police and told them where to find Christa's body, he pled not guilty to murder charges and is set for a pretrial hearing on February 7.
Even though 2017 embodied landmark victories for the LGBTQ community, such as Danica Roem’s historic win in Virginia, violence toward trans people, especially trans people of color, continues to be a national issue that is often repressed by misreporting (including misgendering of victims) and underreporting.
During her life, Christa’s work helped build a strong trans community in the Northeast. She founded the Miss Trans America pageant and also helped launch the Miss Trans New England pageant. According to The Huffington Post, she also aided in the planning of New England’s first Trans Pride march in 2008.
Several activists and organizations online shared their condolences over Christa’s death, including Lamda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project Director Dru Levasseur. “I am deeply saddened to hear that my friend Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien was reportedly killed by her husband on Thursday night,” Levasseur wrote. “Christa was a powerful organizer and fierce activist.”