Transgender Boise woman killed in Portland 'had the biggest heart of anyone I know'

A memorial post for Gigi Pierce on the LGBTQ Boise Idaho Facebook group includes a list of other transgender women who've been killed in 2018.
A memorial post for Gigi Pierce on the LGBTQ Boise Idaho Facebook group includes a list of other transgender women who've been killed in 2018. Facebook

A transgender Boise woman who was shot and killed in downtown Portland, Ore., on Monday was "gorgeous, confident, strong, a gracious host and a true performer," her family said.

Sophia Adler is accused of shooting Gigi Pierce, 28, on the sidewalk on Southwest Second Avenue during a disturbance, the Associated Press reported. Pierce died at the scene, police said.

Adler was arrested at the scene and charged with Pierce's murder. It wasn't immediately clear whether the two knew one another.

Pierce's sister, Meghann White, told the Statesman that Pierce grew up in the Treasure Valley, moving around and attending various schools, including Fairmont Middle School and Kuna High School. White said that Pierce, born David Eugene Pierce, dealt with backlash as a teen.

"He had very turbulent high school years, being bullied, beat up and isolated for his femininity," White said. "He eventually dropped out and got his GED."

White said that Pierce came out toward the end of high school and soon after assumed a drag queen identity, going by the stage name Jeliza Rose.

"She was a beautiful drag queen. ... She was everything David had wanted to be and kept bottled inside," White said.

White said Pierce continued to move around in adulthood, spending some time in Sandpoint around 2014 and also living in Spokane, California and Portland, among other places.

"When she found Portland, she left her heart there," White said. "Anytime she left, she returned, calling it home for the last two years of her life."

White said Pierce's family never got to know Pierce as Gigi — she began transitioning while in Portland.

"David was many things to many people. ...To my mom he was her little boy. He was kind and beautiful. He was a mama's boy through and through.

"To my sister and I, he was just David. He never asked to be called anything else," White said. "We respected his wishes, who he chose to be."

Members of a Boise Facebook group dedicated to the LGBTQ community posted a photo of Pierce on Wednesday, noting that she is the 14th transgender person killed since 2017's Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20.

Oregon police said they did not believe Pierce's killing was "bias- or hate-based," Mic reported. Transgender individuals are disproportionately more likely than the rest of the population to be victims of violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Pierce's family last saw her about a year ago, White said, aside from regular phone calls and video chats. White called her a free spirit and wanderer.

"David/Gigi/Jeliza had the biggest heart of anyone I had known," she said.