Transgender activist found dead in O.C. mourned as leader

As mourners dropped different colored flowers on top of a transgender woman’s coffin on Monday, her favorite song blared through a cellphone’s tiny speakers.

Mexican pop singer Gloria Trevi’s “Todos Me Miran” was Zoraida Reyes’ go-to song whenever she sang karaoke at home, her mother said. The single, translated as “Everyone Looks at Me,” became a gay anthem for its lyrics about overcoming rejection.

“She’d stay up singing, I’d have to scream at her to go to bed,” Macrina Reyes said in Spanish. “Every time we got together we would sing.”

The 28-year-old’s body was found June 12 in a brushy area near a lot behind an Anaheim Dairy Queen in the 200 block of North State College Boulevard by a customer who had parked there after ordering food at the eatery.


Her death is being investigated as “suspicious,” but there were no immediate signs of foul play, Anaheim police said. Investigators said it is likely that her body was moved to the parking lot after she died.

More than 100 people attended Reyes’ funeral at Santa Ana Cemetery. Flower arrangements replicated with the colors pink, blue and white colors of the transgender flag stood near the coffin.

As friends and family cried, a light breeze picked up silver glitter a friend had thrown over the coffin.

Macrina Reyes threw herself over her daughter’s light pink coffin, repeatedly asking her for forgiveness and telling her she loved her in between sobs, clutching a single white rose.

“I asked her for forgiveness because I didn’t tell her enough how much I loved her,” Macrina Reyes said. “I also wish I would’ve gotten to know her other family before she died.”

Her mother called the people her daughter met through her work with transgender and immigrant rights groups her “second family.”

Though friends described Reyes as quiet and observant, they said she was more than willing to pick up a megaphone and march at a rally for LGBT rights. She was a member of the Orange County DREAM Team, DeColores Queer Orange County and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.

At a get-together after the funeral, Julio Rodriguez recalled how he met Reyes when she was in her early teens. She told Rodriguez she was transgender and he referred her to groups that would give her information.

“She grew up to be a fighter,” Rodriguez said. “She grew up to be a kind and beautiful person.”

Mariella Saba, a coordinator with the Aprendamos Program, a Los Angeles-based literacy program, met Reyes at a recent retreat for Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.

Reyes, she said, would quietly watch the group and appeared to try to take as little space as possible.

“But when she spoke, she spoke consciously,” Saba said. “She was very calm and loving, a good spirit.”

The scarce information surrounding Reyes’ death leaves those who knew her feeling unsettled, Saba said.

“Death is natural, but this was not natural,” Saba said. “It’s a different type of pain.”

Reyes was born in Michoacan, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States as a child. She was a graduate of Century High School in Santa Ana and received an associate degree from Santa Ana College.

She was the oldest of four daughters and was living with her family in Santa Ana when she died.

Reyes was the full package, said Bamby Salcedo, her friend and president of the Trans-Latin@ Coalition.

“Not only was she beautiful externally, but beautiful on the inside,” Salcedo said. “She had such compassion and a kind heart.”

Reyes’ death was a blow to the immigrant Latina transgender community, Salcedo said, because most of them shy away from publicly discussing the issues that affect them.

“Many of us aren’t visible,” Salcedo said. “Zoraida was one of those transgender individuals who are part of the movement and work hard to bring our struggles to the forefront.”

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