The grieving sister of Riah Milton, a 25-year-old Black, transgender woman killed in Ohio earlier this month, is speaking out against the deadnaming of her sibling.
Deadnaming is the act of referring to a transgender person by the name they used prior to transitioning, according to Merriam-Webster.
Ariel Mary Ann said police identified her sister as Khalic Rova-Shaquille Milton, which is the name on her driver’s license.
“It cost nothing to call me Ariel,” the grieving sister told FOX19. “To use ‘she, her’ pronouns. To call her Riah. To say that she was my sister. It cost you nothing.”
According to The Enquirer, deputies found Milton's body in Liberty Township on June 9. Police said a 14-year-old girl and two men lured Milton to the area and shot the 25-year-old as they attempted to steal her car.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said Milton wasn't targeted as a transgender woman.
"Absolutely not," the sheriff said at a press conference before going on to misgender Milton. "This person was lured there to be robbed and to have his car taken and to have his belongings taken."
According to FOX19, 19-year-old Kaleb Tooson was arrested on the night of the fatal shooting and subsequently confessed. The 14-year-old girl was also arrested, but 25-year-old Tyree Cross is still missing.
In a statement to The Enquirer, Sgt. Kim Peters of the Butler County Sheriff's Office responded to the family's concerns about deadnaming.
"Although the Sheriff’s Office is sensitive to these matters we have reported the victim as a male," Peters stated. "During the Detective Division’s investigation the victim’s parents referred to him as their son. OHLEG (Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway) has the victim listed as a male as well as the Coroner’s report."
Milton's birth mother, Tracey Milton, identified her child as transgender in an interview with The Enquirer.
"She just wanted to be accepted for who she was," Tracey said.
Mary Ann also spoke with The Enquirer to express her concerns about police misidentifying her sister.
"At this point, she was out (as a transgender woman)," Mary Ann said. "Everyone knew her as Riah."
Riah's family describes her as a person who loved to travel, help others and spend time with family.
Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells, a Black transgender woman in Philadelphia, was also killed in the same week as Riah, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reported. The HRC wrote a statement to highlight the increasing rate of violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the United States.
"In 2019, advocates tracked at least 27 deaths of at least transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women," the organization stated. "These victims, like all of us, are loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members. They worked, went to school and attended church. They were real people — people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them."
Mary Ann feels hopeful after seeing the community's support for her sister.
“It has been amazing watching so many people uplift my sister,” she told FOX19. “To see so many people demand justice for Riah, and people I don’t know reaching out to me, it’s amazing.”
Advocates for Riah also started a petition and expressed their concerns about deadnaming.
"Riah Milton, who is transgender, has already been misgendered and dead named by local law officials and media outlets," the petition stated.
The community created the petition to keep Milton's case "out of the darkness" and to make sure she doesn't "fade into obscurity."
You can sign the petition here.