Meet the activist making sure unsolved LGBT+ missing persons cases aren’t forgotten about

A Colorado activist has launched a grassroots project to highlight trans and queer missing persons cases.

When Lazarus Rise started studying criminal justice and forensics, he began to investigate old local cases. Among them was a decades-old case of a missing woman, whom authorities called Julie Doe and believe was killed in Florida in 1988. Investigators originally thought she was cisgender and only learned that she was trans after DNA testing in 2015, changing the landscape of the case.

Rise was unable to complete his degree, however, he still wanted to utilise the skills he had learned. Julie Doe’s case stuck with him, and made him wonder how many other times trans potential murder victims had been misgendered, when their gender identity may have played a part in the killings.

“How many other people are out there like that — unidentified — that could have been trans, but you never know it because they can’t speak for themselves anymore?” Rise said to KUSA.  “So, it really started making me think about all the people that have gone missing and unidentified that no one ever noticed or cared about it.”

Rise started his Facebook page in April 2020. It has received over 1000 likes and examines a range of cases including ones which have been closed and cold for decades, and ones which are still under investigation.

Recently, the page has highlighted the missing persons cases of 25 year old Indigenous woman, Aubrey Dameron, and Texan Baby James Dawson, both trans. 

Rise page points this out: while the page covers LGBT+ cases, it has an especially “strong focus on missing and unknown transgender/gender non-conforming individuals.”

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