Transgender couple in fatal car crash sheds light on community issues
KEARNEY, Neb. —
It has been a week since a deadly crash in Buffalo County.
It was originally reported that two women died in the crash, but friends reached out to NTV News, informing us that one of the victims was actually a transgender man. Those who knew them said Ryley and Keisha Wright were loved by the community and just an example of the challenges transgender Nebraskans may face, even after death.
Taylor and Josephine Munson said the death of the Kearney couple hit the local LGBT community twice.
"It was kind of a big kick in the face sort of thing. It hurt to see someone you know sort of mistreated in their death and it just, yeah I think it saddened everyone,” said Taylor.
Munson said he and wife Josephine could not help but think about their own situation.
"If it had been us, we would have both been mis-gendered. They would have been using the wrong name for Josephine,” said Munson.
Taylor and Josephine have not transitioned completely and Josephine has not yet legally changed her name. They said those are steps that take time and resources.
"In theory it's very easy. Oh, you just have to do this, and you just have to do this and you just have to do that; but each step requires about five other different steps to get there and so it becomes very difficult,” said Munson.
In the state of Nebraska, to legally change gender you have to undergo Sexual Reassignment Surgery.
Munson said finding psychiatrists to sign forms, doctors who will perform surgeries, prescribe hormones and sign paperwork can take months.
"People who are transgender clearly, they've gone through the struggle. They've tried to live as the sex assigned at birth and it just isn't working for them and so they are willing to go through these other struggles to be who they really are,” said Dawn Darling, a gender therapist.
Darling met Ryley and Keisha through a transgender support group Darling started.
"It doesn't matter if, how the personal presents outwardly or if they've had certain surgeries or if they've changed their driver license or any of that, those are just kind of external things. What really matters is how a person sees themselves and how they know themselves to be,” said Darling.
In the case of Ryley and Keisha, the Buffalo County Sheriff's Office told NTV that they have never dealt with a transgender fatality like this before. They said they use legal documents, like a driver's license, dental records or fingerprints to identify people.
So does Hall County, according to Deputy Cindy Clement, a law enforcement liaison to GI’s PFLAG group and a member of the LGBT community herself.
"We will find their identification if they have it on them, okay and we have to go by the identification, so if they have a Nebraska driver's license and it says it's a female, then that's what we identify,” said Clement.
Clement said situations like this do not happen often and she believes it is important that all law enforcement understand how to approach these topics.
"We’re all just the citizens of this great country and we all have the freedom to be who we are and everyone deserves the same amount of respect,” said Clement.
Ryley and Keisha’s family have set up a GoFundMe account to take care of funeral expenses and have the couple buried together. That information can be found here.