Over 600,000 people are reported missing every year in the United States, according to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS). A portion of that undoubtedly includes LGBTQ+ people, and media coverage is already limited in these issues, especially when the victims are not white, cis women, and/or conventionally attractive.
With recent incidents highlighting the reality of Missing White Woman Syndrome and media bias in crime reporting, people are taking it into their own hands to try and help find the scores of other missing people that fall outside of those categories.
One such Facebook Page is Missing and Unidentified LGBT Individuals, which is “dedicated to LGBTQ unidentified decedents with a strong focus on missing and unknown transgender/gender non-conforming individuals.” The page is run by Lazarus Rise of Colorado Springs, a queer trans man and former criminal justice student in college. He started it right at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
Rise didn’t finish school, but decided to begin using the forensics and criminal investigative skills he did pick up to bring attention to the queer and trans people within that estimated 600,000-plus that may not have their identity recognized or respected by those tasked with searching for them.
Rise became invested in such work after learning that a woman who went missing in 1988, and their body over 25 years later, was only identified as a trans woman in 2015.
“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 asked himself. “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.”
From there, Rise grew the page to over 700 likes. After local NBC News affiliate KUSA profiled him earlier this month, and his story was also featured in NBC Out, the page has doubled its reach, with north of 1,400 followers.
“It was an incredible opportunity getting to put Missing and Unidentified LGBT Individuals out there in front of thousands and share a few cases I’ve talked about. If you came here from that, thank you. If you’ve been here since the beginning, thank you. This is something I’m passionate about so getting to share it with others makes everything worthwhile,” Rise said in a post after.
Some cases featured on the page recently include Juan “JP” Ramirez, a 42 year-old man who went missing in New York City in July, who was unfortunately found deceased; trans woman Kellie Little, who went missing in 1997 from Vancouver; and a John Doe from Larimer County, Colorado, whose body was discovered in 1997 but remains unidentified.
Rise has also shared posts from TransGriot Weekly, a Facebook page ran in memory of the late journalist Monica Roberts, who pioneered coverage of violence against trans people with her blog TransGriot and a weekly webshow; and Trans Cold Cases, another page bringing attention to less recent incidents involving trans people.
Other sites dedicated to finding missing people that may not receive widespread media coverage include The Charley Project, started by autistic woman Meaghan Good (and which shared news of Rise’s page), and Black and Missing, Inc., operated by the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. (BAMFI) non-profit and featured in this year’s HBO docuseries Black and Missing.