Mother of American missing in Bahamas kept daughter’s transgender identity secret

The mother of an American woman who disappeared in the Bahamas last month while on a month-long yoga vacation has revealed that her daughter is transgender. She said she did not want to share the detail for fear it would negatively impact the search.

Since Taylor Casey was last seen alive on June 19, her mother and close friends have been working day and night to find her.

The group has created several social media accounts, started a GoFundMe campaign for legal help and written lengthy press releases about Casey’s disappearance. But a press release issued Monday revealed Casey’s gender identity for the first time.

“The focus would be taken away from finding my child, my child that’s missing, and they would put the focus on ‘oh, Taylor is transgender,’ which shouldn’t be the focus at all,” Casey’s mother, Colette Seymore, said, referring to the media. “The focus should be on finding Taylor, an American, human citizen who’s missing in the Bahamas.”

Seymore said she didn’t initially feel the need to share Casey’s gender identity.

Casey’s friends and family believe she would have been found long ago if she had been white and cisgender.

“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” said Seymore, 69. “There would have been a lot more effort. The investigation would have been done properly, as it should have been done.”

Local authorities have not indicated there is evidence of foul play in the missing persons case. They were aware of Casey’s gender identity, said Seymore and close friend Emily Williams. Of the 321 murders of trans and gender nonconforming people reported globally between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2023, 74 percent were in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a study by the LGBTQ advocacy group Transgender Europe. The study also found that 91 percent of trans murder victims globally were trans women or femmes, and the majority were people of color.

According to the Human Dignity Trust, a global LGBTQ rights advocacy organization, same-sex consensual sexual activity is still partially prohibited in the Bahamas.

Casey was enrolled in a yoga instructor program at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas when she disappeared. Police found her cell phone in the ocean near the retreat, but have not yet recovered her passport.

The ashram is located on the posh Paradise Island, adjacent to the Atlantis resort. It has been named in The New York Times, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop and The Huffington Post as a top travel destination. Casey was an avid yogi for 15 years before she took the trip, according to her friends and family.

Seymore said her daughter seemed herself in the phone conversations they’ve had since Casey arrived at the retreat on June 3. But on the day she was last seen alive, Seymore said her daughter was acting strange.

“Taylor said to me, ‘Mom, this is hard,'” Seymore said. “And when Taylor told me that, I just felt something, because Taylor is not a quitter, and Taylor loves yoga and really wanted to do it. I just had this creepy feeling.”

Taylor Casey, 41, of Chicago, was last seen on June 19 at a yoga retreat on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.Thanks to the Casey family

Later, Seymore and Williams said, they were told by several people who attended the retreat that Casey seemed “isolated” and “not well integrated into the program.” Casey was the only Black person and the only transgender person among the 14 participants at the retreat, Williams said. “Our best guess is that if things were difficult, that dynamic contributed heavily to the difficulty that Taylor was expressing,” Williams said.

Jacqueline Boyd, another close friend of Casey’s, said she wasn’t sure whether Casey’s gender identity played a role in her disappearance. But she added that in recent years, as Casey has opened up more, she has become more confident.

“My perspective is that something happened to Taylor that is not okay,” Boyd said. “And that potentially, you know, at this point in this retreat, there are people who seemed trustworthy or who seemed not to mean any harm, who could have done Taylor harm. We would have just heard from her if there had been another option.”

On June 20, Seymore received a call from the retreat that Casey was missing. Ashram staff reported Casey’s disappearance to the Royal Bahamas Police Force, or RBPF, police said in a news release after notifying Seymore.

Five days later, Seymore and Williams flew from Chicago to the Bahamas to meet with police investigators and retrieve her belongings. The meetings were unsuccessful, they said.

They accused authorities of giving them information that contradicted what officials told the media. They also said that police had not put up missing person posters at or inside the ashram, despite posting them online.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A news release last week said Paradise Island police and Marine Support Services were being mobilized to search for Casey on land and at sea “immediately.”

“This is a priority for the Royal Bahamas Police Force, and we will continue to work diligently, doing everything we can to locate Taylor and ensure her safe return to her family,” the RBPF said in the release. “Furthermore, police will continue to work diligently to determine what happened to Taylor, and in the process all relevant stakeholders will be notified in a timely manner.”

Last week, the RBPF announced that its Chief Inspector Michael Johnson, who heads the department’s criminal investigations, has been placed on “garden leave,” or temporarily banned from working while he remains on the payroll.

Johnson’s departure appears to be unrelated to Casey’s case. The RBPF cited “the recent circulation of voice notes” featuring Johnson when announcing his departure. Caribbean media have reported that leaked voice notes allegedly show Johnson discussing dropping criminal investigations in exchange for money. Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It makes a lot more sense now to know that this person is now suspended for corruption and taking bribes,” Williams said. “That certainly fits with our impression of where things were when we were there.”

Seymore and Williams also criticized the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat Bahamas, saying staff members gave them conflicting accounts of when Casey was last seen alive and prevented them from seeking information from other guests.

“They struggled to tell a coherent, linear story about the details of what happened,” Williams said.

More coverage of Taylor Casey’s disappearance

Jonathan Goldbloom, a spokesman for the retreat, said in a statement that the ashram appreciates “the distress the family is feeling” but he has disputed the allegations. “We learned Taylor was missing on June 20 and alerted police that evening. She was last seen the night before,” Goldbloom said. “We also alerted staff and guests on the 20th and have continued to keep them updated. We have also urged people to come forward with any information they may have. We are cooperating with law enforcement and sharing everything we know.”

“I would also like to point out that police have indicated that they believe Taylor left the ashram voluntarily,” Goldbloom added.

Seymore said she wants U.S. authorities to take over the case. She added that she has been in contact with the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas and staff in the offices of Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to try to recruit U.S. authorities to help with the search, but so far they have been unsuccessful.

On Thursday, Casey’s 42nd birthday, Seymore, Williams and other friends and family members of Casey will hold a press conference in Chicago to continue her defense.

“Taylor, we love you. We miss you. We want you home,” Seymore said through tears. “Congratulations. Congratulations, Taylor.”

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