Atlanta transgender activist Cheryl Courtney-Evans dies

Pioneering Atlanta transgender activist Cheryl Courtney-Evans has died. She had been battling cancer and other health issues recently.

News of Courtney-Evans’ death over the weekend led to an outpouring of online tributes across the country, and her passing comes on the heels of the deaths of two other Georgia LGBT luminaries—Atlanta drag icon Diamond Lil in August and Savannah drag legend Lady Chablis last month.

Courtney-Evans was the co-founder and executive director of Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth (TILTT) and often shared her thoughts on trans issues on her blog, A Bitch For Justice. Courtney-Evans was also recently named one of the 12 grand marshals for this weekend’s Atlanta Pride parade. Her bio per Atlanta Pride’s announcement:

Cheryl Courtney-Evans has been the Executive Director of Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth, Incorporated since 2007. In April, 2009, Ms. Courtney-Evans participated with over 200 transgender individuals, sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), in Lobby Days on Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress members for passage of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act with gender identity included as one of the protected groups, as well as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). The former was signed into law in 2010. She is the recipient of the 2012 Pioneer Award, issued by the Transfaith In Color Conference & the Freedom Center for Social Justice, of Charlotte, NC.

In her role with TILTT, the first transgender support & advocacy organization to serve both trans men and women in the area, she has assisted and advocated for a broad swath of Atlanta’s transgender community, and participates in numerous human rights efforts in the greater Atlanta area.

“Atlanta Pride joins the entire community in mourning the passing of Cheryl C. Courtney-Evans, longtime transgender activist, community leader, and our 2016 Atlanta Pride Grand Marshal,” read an Atlanta Pride Committee statement. “When we spoke with Cheryl last week, she was hoping to be out of the hospital in time to ride in her fancy convertible and kick off our Trans March from the stage. We will miss her physical presence but will celebrate her life both at the Trans March and Parade this weekend.”

A fixture at the center of numerous Atlanta trans issues

If there was a trans issue in Atlanta, Courtney-Evans was usually at the center of it, whether it be a now former Georgia ACLU leader’s stance on bathrooms and gender identity, trans voter disenfranchisement, trans inclusion at Atlanta Pride and Atlanta Black Gay Pride, attacks on trans and gender nonconforming people on MARTA and in Little Five Points, violence against trans women of color, passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and the CDC’s handling of rising HIV rates among gay men and trans women.

Southern Fried Queer Pride issued a statement following Courtney-Evans’s passing, saying, “Long time trailblazer, trans activist, and ‘a bitch for justice,’ Ms. Cheryl Courtney-Evans has passed away. Ms. Cheryl worked tirelessly locally to advance trans rights. She founded TILTT (transgender individuals living their truth) and worked with groups such as Solutions Not Punishment Coalition – SNaP Co. to make sure trans women and folx had space and protections. Our condolences go to her family and friends. Atlanta has lost a true icon.”

Trans activist Jamie Roberts of Trans Housing Atlanta wrote in a statement, “We owe so much to the efforts of Ms. Evans to build the Atlanta Trans Community to make it effectively meet the needs of the community in regards to supportive services, housing, and other endeavors. She was mentor to many of us and we’ll never forget her drive, her fierce spirit, and her love for the community. Please keep her and her memory in your thoughts and prayers this week as we reach another season of PRIDE. Certainly, Cheryl showed us how to be PROUD of ourselves.”

Atlanta transgender activist and Human Rights Campaign national board member Ames Simmons wrote a tribute on HRC’s blog Monday, saying in part, “We will all try to carry on the legacy Ms. Cheryl left behind. Rest in power, Ms. Cheryl.”

Courtney-Evans’ final Facebook post was a shared photo of African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass with his quote, “A slave is someone who sits down and waits for someone to free them.”

Here’s Courtney-Evans speaking at the Sylvia Rivera Community Brunch during Stonewall Month 2010.