WEST GARFIELD PARK — Paige Clay was a rising star on the runway in Chicago’s LGBTQ ball scene, a vibrant subculture rooted in drag.
Clay, a transgender woman whose legal first name was Marvin, sashayed down the runway in bright-colored, home-made ensembles.
“It came naturally to her,” said Brian Turner, a social worker at Taskforce Community and Prevention Services, where Clay received transgender services.
Clay is one of two trans women killed on the city’s West Side this year.
Clay was found dead April 16 in an alley in the 4500 block of West Jackson Boulevard with a gunshot wound to the face, according to Chicago police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
No one has been arrested or charged in the case, according to Chicago police data.
It was a brutal end to a life filled with obstacles.
Clay had an unstable childhood and faced discrimination when she came out as a transgendered person, Turner said. She didn’t have the support of her mother or father growing up, and became a ward of the state before she turned 11.
But Clay found a family when Turner’s aunt became Clay’s foster mom.
Clay also found a home within the transgender community and sought services at Taskforce Community and Prevention Services, an Austin-based organization that provides adolescents with medical and mental health services.
Turner said Clay met with therapists, mental health specialists and peer support groups. Clay went through a “serious process” before beginning hormone therapy, which signals the physical transition from male to female, Turner said.
Turner said Clay had been a victim of violence in the past and had faced discrimination. He said Clay was “tough” and unwavering. A motive in her slaying was unknown.
“She was outgoing and determined,” Turner said. “But she faced obstacles that shifted her life in a way.”