For Londyn Smith-De Richelieu, the new director of LGBTQ Affairs for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, the rate which Black transgender women are being killed is unacceptable. Her job is to change that, she said.
For example, Bailey Reeves, 17, who is Black, was shot in the torso in Northeast Baltimore, The Sun reported in 2019; Reeves, of Rockville, later died at a nearby hospital. The same year, Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, told The Sun most “trans people killed are Black women.” The Human Rights Campaign monitors violence against trans people and is billed the U.S. largest LGBTQ advocacy organization.
So far, Smith-De Richelieu, a Black transgender woman, has reached out to organizations such as African American Male Engagement, a division of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family success, according to its website, to have forums about issues impacting LGBTQ people, including domestic violence.
As the newly appointed director of LGBTQ Affairs for Mayor — effective June 1, the first day of Pride month — Smith-De Richelieu’s job is to improve the quality of life of the LGBTQ community with a focus on health, safety, unity, sustainability and inclusion. She’s the first to lead the office and the first openly transgender person in the mayor’s cabinet.
“If your sister is a trans woman, and you hear someone says, ‘Hey, faggot,’ to somebody, you should be saying something because that could’ve been your sister … We have to reteach people on how to engage,” said Smith-De Richelieu, who said she has been a victim of domestic violence.
In the U.S., 89% of trans people reported killed are people of color based on data from October 2020 to September 2021, according to Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide, which monitors violence against trans people. Last year was the deadliest year for transgenders and gender-diverse people, according to the project — 375 murders, which is up 7% from the previous year.
A West Baltimore native, Smith-De Richelieu attended Mount Saint Joseph High School in Irvington in Southwest Baltimore, but graduated from the Milford Mill Academy in Windsor Mill. She now lives in East Baltimore, and has two dogs; Teddy, a 12-year-old Yorkie, and Fox, a 2-year-old Merle Pomeranian, and two cats; Millie and her son Garfield.
She earned a bachelor’s of arts in business administration from Morehouse College in Atlanta and is an alumnae of the Institute of Health Law and Policy of Hofstra Law, according to the Mayor’s Office. While getting into her new role, she said she’s taking a break from her doctorate in public health from Walden University.
Prior to her current role, she worked as research coordinator for the Bloomberg School of Public Health at John Hopkins University, health policy analyst for the Elliott Group and as a contractual health policy and equity consultant.
“Even though I’m alone in the office, I don’t feel alone. Everyone makes me feel so comfortable — so welcome. They really uplifted me,” she said.
Scott said Smith-De Richelieu’s lived experience growing up in West Baltimore and her education make her a right fit for the role. Previous administrations have had liaisons with the LGBTQ community, which made connections and solved issues, but having an agency director can impact policy and programming, he added. For example, Jabari Lyles, former Baltimore’s LGBTQ affairs liaison, in 2019 was a proponent of Baltimore schools enacting policies protecting transgender students, The Sun reported. The policy passed the same year.
“As a good person — who just wants people to be treated well and allow people to live their lives the way they see fit as long as they’re not harming anyone else — it’s the right thing to do most importantly,” Scott said.
Brendon Holloway and Smith-De Richelieu worked at Johns Hopkins University, where they researched the health needs of transgender and nonbinary people in Baltimore. Holloway, who is nonbinary, said Smith-De Richelieu’s connections in the LGBTQ community in Baltimore and other states, including Atlanta, are an asset to the office.
“I really enjoyed working with [Smith-De Richelieu]. Not only is she authentic, and an incredibly knowledgeable person, but she is kind. She brings a sense of humor to work,” Holloway said. “My favorite part about [her] is she brings her full self to work.”
Smith-De Richelieu said she told her mom first about her identity during her sophomore year at Morehouse College. Her dad found out through her brother. Her dad later confronted her while visiting home on a school break.
“‘I always told my children to be who they are, to never ignore [and] to always be true to themselves. What you think? I wasn’t gonna love you anymore?’” Smith-De Richelieu, who has a teenage child, said her dad told her to which she responded, “No.” “‘Nothing’s gonna change.’”
This article is part of our Newsmaker series, which profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at email@example.com.