On October 11, 2021, 25-year-old Mel Robert Groves was shot to death in Jackson, Mississippi. None of us knew Mel Groves, but he was one of us. A young Black trans man who struggled to stay housed, a farmer and plant scientist whose nurturing hands held warm earth, a beloved community member whose friends loved him deeply and profoundly. A young person whose life held so much promise and who deserved all of the good this world had to offer and none of the pain and violence he was handed in its place.
In the wake of his death, one of his close friends reported that from the time Mel came out as trans at 19, he had to figure out how to survive without the support of his family of origin. For the past five years, he cycled in and out of housing and experienced multiple periods of unsheltered homelessness.
We can’t say for sure that Mel would be alive today if he’d been securely housed throughout his early twenties, but he probably would. Housing saves lives. It’s a safe haven for those who—on the other side of their front doors—experience racism, transphobia, and the particularly fatal violence people experience at the intersection of Black and trans identities. Mel reportedly didn’t feel safe accessing shelter and homelessness services because of transphobia. That’s a feeling shared by over a quarter of the (1 in 3) Black trans men who have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives.
True Colors United is working to create a world where young people like Mel, young people like us, never have to experience fear or violence within shelter systems. Where every young person has housing and the support and resources they need to thrive. Because that’s what we deserve.
The leadership of the Knights & Orchids Society (TKO) is on the ground in Jackson, Mississippi seeking answers and seeking justice and is offering a reward for any information related to his murder.