Hundreds honor life of trans woman lost to violent crime

Published: Apr. 16, 2022 at 8:34 PM EDT
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MORRISVILLE, Vt. (WCAX) - Hundreds of Vermonters gathered Saturday to remember a 29-year-old trans woman from Hinesburg who police say was brutally murdered earlier this week.

The Pride Center of Vermont hosted a vigil for Fern Feather in Morrisville, and Rep. Rey Garofano, D-Chittenden, of Essex organized a rally in Essex Junction.

“A lover of animals and fun and friends. A ray of sunshine taken away from all of us prematurely,” said one speaker.

Feather is described by loved ones as an exuberant lover of life. Hundreds of friends, strangers, and community members gathered in Oxbow Park in Morrisville to honor Feather’s life.

Feather is a transgender woman who loved ones say went by many different pronouns, including she/her, he/him, and they/them.

Some knew Feather well, like Feather’s partner Jennifer Thoma of Hardwick and her friend Vinny.

“He was an amazing individual who brought so much light and love and authenticity and magic to this world,” Thoma said.

“Fern had a way of making everyone feel so seen and so known even in brief moments with them,” Vinny said.

Donna Underwood Owens of Wolcott says she’s one of the many who had brief but impactful moments with Feather. “She remembered that I used to raise goats, and we start talking. We talked for three hours,” she said.

The circle of togetherness allowed folks to celebrate Fern and trans pride at a time when the Vermont Pride Center says derogatory rhetoric against transgender people is on the rise.

“Holding this circle of togetherness felt like a really important moment, especially amidst all the national rhetoric targeted at our folks, all of our beautiful, gender-diverse folks, and Fern was somebody who represented how fluid and beautifully diverse gender could be,” said Kell Arbor with the Vermont Pride Center.

And about an hours drive away, a rally in Essex Junction sent a similar message. Dozens of Vermonters holding signs and waving flags stood in solidarity with trans folks, friends, and family while hundreds of honking drivers made their support heard.

“I think in Vermont, while there’s a lot going on in the country that really endangers trans people, we would like to believe that here in Vermont we don’t have those same issues, but here in Vermont it comes right to our doorstep,” said Eileen Blackwood of Burlington.

“We’re going to push back with everything we’ve got to make sure trans people have what they need to live healthy flourishing lives so they make it to adulthood, elderhood, and beyond,” added Samuel Kernan of Winooski.

Fern Feather was reportedly stabbed to death Tuesday night in Morristown.

The accused killer, 43-year-old Seth Brunell, claims it was self-defense, but police say they haven’t found any evidence of a struggle. Brunell has pleaded not guilty in court and is being held without bail.

Brunell has not been charged with a hate crime. Prosecutors say right now they don’t have enough evidence to support that charge, but say if they do, they will add it.

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