Trans icon Elie Che moved to New York because UK healthcare is so woeful. She was found dead less than a month later

Elie Che: London's queer community holds beautiful vigil for trans icon

London’s queer community held a vigil for Black trans icon Elie Che last weekend, after the 23-year-old was found dead in New York on 31 August.

Che, a model, activist and writer who was a fixture of London’s queer scene, where they sometimes danced at LGBT+ strip night Harpies, was found on Orchard Beach shore in the Bronx. Che had recently moved to the US to find work and community while they underwent hormone therapy.

On Sunday (6 September), London’s queer community held a vigil for Elie Che on Hampstead Heath.

“Our community has lost one of the bravest, kindest, and most beautiful souls we’ve ever known. Elie Che was a poet, a dancer, a friend and an inspiration to many. We are heartbroken,” said London Trans+ Pride, who organised the vigil.

“You rest in paradise sweet angel, you’ve left your mark on this world,” London Trans+ Pride continued, adding that London’s second-ever Trans Pride – which will be held on 12 September – will be held in Che’s honour.

“We will fight to make this world have the kindness and respect for Black trans women that it should’ve had for you. You’ll be missed and our memories of you cherished forever.”

Harpies added that it was “devastated” to learn that Elie Che, who used she and they pronouns, had died.

“She was kind, sweet, breathtakingly-gorgeous, but most of all, she was brave,” Harpies said in an Instagram post.

“She shone like the brightest star in the sky, she was so vocal about trans rights and always stood up for what she believed in.

“Elie was just 23 when she left us. Things need to change for trans people, and most importantly, Black trans femmes.”

In a fundraiser that Elie Che posted just a month before they died, they wrote that they were moving back to the US because they didn’t have access to healthcare in the UK and desperately needed to transition.

“I am a Black trans femme who needs money for survival and for transition costs,” Che said. “As some of you may know transitioning is a long very expensive journey.”

They continued: “I think people are finally understanding this and the issues among Black trans women who have an average lifespan of 35 years old, I want to make it past that.

“Yesterday I announced that I’ll be moving to New York, I’m not doing this for the look of it. As a Black trans woman who is a fashion enthusiast, NYC seems like the appropriate place for me to live and thrive in while I’m going through my hormonal changes because I just began HRT… also NYC has a community for queer people of colour.”

On the day they died, Che had called a friend and said they were going to the beach. When the didn’t return, the friend reported them missing and police later found their body on the beach.

A coroner has ruled their death accidental drowning, according to New York’s Patch magazine.