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Colonial Heights woman shares her story of coming out and being persecuted for being trans (UPDATED)

GayRVA Staff | September 4, 2018

We received a sad update to this story via email over the weekend, letting us know that Khloé Elizabeth Vaughan had passed away. The email contained a testimonial to Khloé that we are reproducing here.

“This lovely soul struggled deeply with bullying, both in word and in physical assault, due to being a transitioning woman. Not two weeks ago, she was physically assaulted by four people simply for being herself. She struggled with suicidal depression and drug abuse because of it. She was one of the sweetest, most honestly real people you could hope to meet. During these last few months, she was declining rapidly and had even recently moved due to feeling unsafe because of more direct transphobia, and her address getting out.

Last night she took her life. a travesty that was brought on by hatred and ignorance, leaving family and friends who loved her grieving for her struggle, and their loss. Please consider donating, even just a little bit, to help. It would mean the world to the family.”

A fundraiser for Khloé’s funeral expenses has been set up at GoFundMe, and can be found here.

Our original story, from March 2016, follows below:

The following letter was sent to GayRVA from Khloé Elizabeth Vaughan (above), a Colonial Heights trans woman. Last summer, Vaughan claimed she was verbally harassed at South Park Mall for being trans, and was thrown out after she complained.

While the story reached a lot of folks, it sadly wasn’t resolved, and Vaughan couldn’t afford legal support at the time.

But today’s letter comes on the heels of the National Transgender Day of Visibility, and it does well to point out the issues faced by local trans people here in Central VA. Have a look below, and keep an eye out as Vaughan has more protest plans in the future.


When I was 17-years-old, I came out as a transgender female.

I figured out who I was at a very young age, but I chose to hide it due to my fear of being criticized by my family, friends, and even complete strangers. As the burden of my secret became too large for me to bear, I had decided it was time to gather the strength introduce my true identity to the world.

My formerly low self-esteem began to increase as I revealed who I am to all of my family and friends, who were largely receptive of the “new” me. Their acceptance gave me comfort. For the first time in my life, I had real confidence in myself.

Before long, I came to realize that my newfound confidence would be tested when it came to going out in public.

I was already mindful that some people would not quite understand my situation, which I thought I prepared myself for. I was not, however, prepared for the immense criticism I have received over the years for being transgender.

I was not prepared to be openly ridiculed and harassed regarding my appearance in stores. I was not prepared to have food thrown in my direction while simply eating at a restaurant. I was absolutely unprepared to be thrown out of my local mall because an employee labeled me a “faggot” and called security on me for retorting. I’m aware that I do not fit into the heteronormative standards set by today’s society, but I refuse to be treated as less important for being transgender.

When I found out about North Carolina’s recent bill, HB2 – which blocks their local governments from enacting LGBT legislation and prohibits transgender people from using the restroom they identify with – I knew I had to do something.

On March 28, 2016, I held a protest advocating the rights for transgender people in the city of Richmond. My goal is to not only reclaim those rights lost by the transgender people of North Carolina, but to also gain and protect basic rights for transgender people all over the United States. No one should have to feel anxious or question applying for a job they may be qualified for because of how they identify them self. No person should have to be fearful of being physically or verbally harassed each time they leave their home. We should be able to utilize the public restroom designated for the gender we identify as.

My intention is to challenge our nation of change and our region to fight for and attain constitutional rights for transgender people all over the US.

I plan to begin assembling frequent peaceful protests in various communities promoting basic rights for transgender people throughout the country. I will also involve myself in my own and other communities to reach out to people who may need help dealing with being transgender.

I have many more ideas I’d like to set into motion, though a single person can only do so much alone. I believe that if we work together to collaborate on this important mission, we could bring about great change when it comes to laws concerning the rights of transgender Americans.

With enough support from your organization, amongst others, we can change this nation in a positive manner. I hope that you’ll consider assisting me in reaching mine, and many other’s aim at extending constitutional rights to the transgender people of the United States. Thank you for your time in this matter.

Khloé Vaughan