On the eve of funeral services for a slain transgender woman, a community activist talks about helping her overcome the trauma of human trafficking only to lose her in a shooting.
When police took Zoe Spears to Ruby Corado’s Northwest D.C. shelter for LGBTQ youth, Corado said she didn't know the then 19-year-old Spears had been a victim of human trafficking, but she sensed something devastating had happened to her.
“I didn’t say much,” Corado said. “I just sat there and I listened as the officer kept talking and I smiled.”
At times, Spears struggled with the routine of the shelter, Casa Ruby, navigating her way through living with others. Night terrors haunted her sleep.
Gradually, Spears began to find peace and confided to Corado she wanted to transition.
Corado said when she took Spears for the medical care to begin the process, it was like a rebirth. Spears began calling Corado “Mom.”
“We had so much in common,” Corado said. “I grew up alone. I grew up an outcast. I grew up in a city that rejected me and abandoned me so many times. So when I knew that Zoe was going through the same, we bonded.”
By age 22 and with Corado’s help, Spears had moved out on her own near Eastern Avenue where she met other transgender women. Some of them engaged in sex work to survive.
Among her new friends was Ashanti Carmon, who was killed March 30 on a street just off Eastern Avenue in Fairmount Heights, Maryland.
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Spears told friends she witnessed the crime.
Then on June 14, Corado learned Spears was shot to death not far from where Carmon was killed.
Corado reacted to the death of Spears, 23, the way a mother would — with anguish, guilt and pain.
“It hurt me every time she would come and talk to me and tell me how someone really hurt her, because I’m here to protect her,” Corado said.
At Friday’s funeral service, Corado will be escorted in as Spears’ mother.