Rest in peace and power, Ch­eryl Court­ney-Evans

Ash­leigh Atwell is a queer les­bian writer and or­ga­nizer born and raised in At­lanta, GA.

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

“I’ve writ­ten about a lack of com­mu­nity in At­lanta and if Ms. Ch­eryl’s passing has taught me any­thing, it’s that we need each other more now than ever.”

When I met Ch­eryl Court­ney-Evans for the first time, two years ago, she was mad as hell.

I in­vited her to speak to my stu­dent group at Ge­or­gia State for a meet­ing about po­lice bru­tal­ity against LGBTQ peo­ple. The di­rec­tions I’d sent her to get to the build­ing re­sulted in her walk­ing in cir­cles across cam­pus to get to the room. I had no idea un­til she got to the room. She was out of breath and walked with a slight limp and told me about her trek. I gave her a ner­vous laugh and apol­ogy to which she re­sponded that noth­ing was funny. She wasn’t happy but she made it and the meet­ing went as planned. I got an ear­ful that day but I’ve loved her ever since. On Oc­to­ber 2, she passed away. I am dev­as­tated. Ms. Ch­eryl was a pioneer for the trans­gen­der move­ment in At­lanta. Be­fore we knew about Lav­erne Cox and Janet Mock, she was down here do­ing the work. She was the founder of TILTT (Trans­gen­der In­di­vid­u­als Liv­ing Their Truth) and did ev­ery­thing she could to make sure trans­gen­der peo­ple were that much closer to lib­er­a­tion. When­ever I saw her, she usu­ally had a young woman with her and the mother-daugh­ter as­pect be­tween them was ob­vi­ous.

Even though I am a cis­gen­der girl, I still felt her love. Talk­ing to her felt like I was talk­ing to my aunt or grand­mother. There were times she’d say some­thing that I might not agree with but her con­vic­tion to her be­liefs and abil­ity to stand her ground were ad­mirable.

I haven’t been able to do as much ac­tivism and or­ga­niz­ing as I’d like, so I wouldn’t see Ms. Ch­eryl very of­ten but that changed af­ter I got a sec­ond job at Michaels. Un­be­knownst to me, she was a crafty per­son and my store was the most con­ve­nient to her. I turned out of one of the aisles and ran right into her. She seemed stand­off­ish at first so I backed off. About 15 min­utes later, she sent her young friend to find me and bring me to her and ex­plained that she was hav­ing a panic at­tack, a feel­ing I know too well. Then, I got one of her lovely hugs. Af­ter that, I’d see her when­ever she’d come in. I had no idea that Michaels would be the last place I would see her. I had no idea that the hug I got dur­ing her visit would be the last one. This isn’t my first, sec­ond or even third time los­ing some­one so I should be used to it but still, it hurts. I still have my what-ifs and should haves. I’m sure many of us that knew and loved her do.

I’ve writ­ten about a lack of com­mu­nity in At­lanta and if Ms. Ch­eryl’s passing has taught me any­thing, it’s that we need each other more now than ever. Her death is the third prom­i­nent LGBTQ death we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in 2016. We need to reach back and grab the young queers and trans ba­bies that are com­ing be­hind us.

The peo­ple that pulled us up in our youth are get­ting older and join­ing the an­ces­tors, so we will be left to pick up their torches.

Rest in peace and power, Ch­eryl Court­ney-Evans. You’ve earned it. I am hon­ored to call you an an­ces­tor.

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