When Googling for news about Marilyn, I sometimes find sad and disturbing news stories with only the vaguest connection to her: a missing teen last seen wearing a Monroe t-shirt, for example, or a homeless drug addict identified by her image on a tattoo. On the whole, I leave these stories alone and hope that these poor souls find some inspiration from Marilyn’s own struggles and resilience, as many other fans do.
In the tragic case of Marilyn ‘Monroe’ Cazares, a 22-year-old transgender woman found stabbed to death in an abandoned building in Brawley, California on July 17th, I will make an exception. Her brutal murder has become emblematic of the extreme violence endured by young trans women of colour, as Daniel Egitto reports for Oxygen. (And if her story has moved you, please sign and share the Justice for Marilyn Cazares petition.)
“Marilyn Cazares, born Nathan Cazares, embraced who she was from a very young age, according to local newspaper The Desert Review. Her sister, Aubrey, told the paper how Cazares used to walk around in her mother’s dress and jewelry as a kid. She always loved dressing up in wigs and ‘crazy outfits,’ and when she moved out at 18, she started going by ‘Marilyn’ – after Marilyn Monroe, Aubrey said.
With at least 26 confirmed murders of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the U.S., 2020 has been a particularly deadly year for the community, according to the Human Rights Campaign. But in a small town like Brawley, most weren’t expecting those numbers to hit so close to home.
In the wake of that shock, Rosa Diaz said Brawley’s LGBTQ community has seen an astonishing wave of support. Dozens attended the “I Am Marilyn” march and vigil on Aug. 2, speaking out against transphobic violence and advocating for acceptance, the Imperial Valley Press reports. A GoFundMe fundraiser for Cazares’ funeral raised over $14,000, and plans are in the works to found a scholarship in her honor, Diaz said. Meanwhile, the transgender support group Diaz helps run has seen a wave of fresh faces, and more people than ever seem willing to speak up about their identities, Diaz said.
For those that knew her, Cazares’ legacy continues to shine as a beacon of hope. ‘A lot of people thought she was inspiring. She was looked up to, just living life. She didn’t care what other people said,’ Cazares’ aunt, Mindy Garcia, told the Desert Sun.”