Trans woman who died to be honored at Tenderloin vigil

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday January 26, 2023
Share this Post:
A candlelight vigil will be held for Ivory Nicole Smith Friday, January 27, in the Tenderloin. Photo: Courtesy Transgender District
A candlelight vigil will be held for Ivory Nicole Smith Friday, January 27, in the Tenderloin. Photo: Courtesy Transgender District

The Transgender District will be holding a candlelight vigil Friday, January 27, at 6 p.m. to honor a trans woman and former staff member who died January 24.

Ivory Nicole Smith, 27, had been a former staff member with the district — the first legally-recognized trans cultural district in the world, comprising the southeast Tenderloin and two blocks south of Market Street. The vigil will be held at Turk and Taylor streets, the location of the Compton's Cafeteria Riot in 1966 that was one of the first LGBTQ riots in the United States.

Aria Sa'id, president and chief strategist of the Transgender District, stated in a Facebook post that the San Francisco Police Department was conducting an investigation, "but their preliminary assessment has ruled out foul play and homicide."

SFPD Public Information Officer Sergeant Adam Lobsinger confirmed that in an email to the Bay Area Reporter on Thursday.

"The SFPD is investigating, and foul play does not appear to be a factor in the death," Lobsinger wrote.

Further details about Smith's death were not immediately available.

The San Francisco Office of the Chief Medical Examiner confirmed Smith died, her age, and that she lived in San Francisco, but added that "the cause of death and the manner of death is pending; the OCME has no additional information or comment."

Gabby Burgos-Colón, a special project associate with the trans district who is nonbinary and gender-nonconforming, told the B.A.R. that Smith had since "moved on" from working at the district, but that she was one of the first friends they'd made when they moved to San Francisco.

"I've known Ivory since I moved to the Bay Area," Burgos-Colón said. "I moved here last year in January. We worked together at the district — we were both project associates — and worked at the same desk. We collaborated a lot and lived in the same building."

Smith, who was born July 28, 1995, was a "daughter of the Bay Area," Burgos-Colón said. The two had lived together in the Tenderloin.

"She definitely was very empowering," Burgos-Colón said. "Every time we'd talk she'd say 'Hey Gabby, love.' It was a small thing, but it really made me smile, made me feel loved and made me feel seen in my own skin. She traveled the world by herself and she wanted to live life, live big and live unapologetically."

Burgos-Colón said that "we were a little more badass when we were working together."

They added that as far as they knew, Smith had two jobs at the time of her death, one of which was as a navigator for the city's initiative to facilitate access to housing for transgender people.

Pau Crego, a trans and nonbinary person who's executive director of the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives, expressed his grief at Smith's passing.

"At the Office of Transgender Initiatives, we had the honor of working with Ivory over the past few years, including as a member of our Trans Advisory Committee last year," Crego wrote in an email. "Ivory was a thoughtful and passionate community leader, and was truly one of the kindest people I have ever met. Her passing is heartbreaking, and she will be deeply missed by our community both here in San Francisco and throughout the country."

Sa'id issued an official statement Thursday.

"As a former staff member of The Transgender District, Ivory was a fierce community leader and organizer, and a dedicated activist known for her unwavering love and appreciation of her community," Sa'id stated. "Ivory was undeniably a pillar of our community and her passing is an enormous loss for us all. We recognize the importance of coming together to grieve and honor her life and legacy."

"It was very unexpected," Burgos-Colón said of Smith's passing. "She was very loved."

Updated, 1/27/23: This article has been updated to include comments from Pau Crego at the Office of Transgender Initiatives.

Updated, 1/31/23: This article has been updated with information from the medical examiner's office.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.