Reports of death and murder are common these days. A trans woman was shot and killed in Detroit. Another in Maryland. And many more around the states. What’s surprising about these deaths is the fact that all these were transgender women. According to the reports, at least 22 transgender individuals have been found dead in the United States. And 80 percent of which were black. But the real number is much higher.
Every year there is an increase in the rate of deaths among trans people. Particularly black trans women. Their deaths are tragic and brutal. The American Medical Association calls it an “epidemic.”
Politics is continuously undermining the rights and lives of transgender people. Moreover, the society also continues to dehumanize the dignity and identity of transgenders. With all this already happening, it gets more difficult to curb the problem. It sends a dangerous signal to those who discriminate and attack the transgender community.
The number of deaths reported is disturbing. But there is more to what meets the eye.
The reports are misreported or unreported.
There is not really an official source to record the deaths of transgender people. The data collected is through a system of voluntary reporting from state and local law enforcement agencies. And the data collected does not really consider the gender identity of the person. This could mean that the number of deaths could be higher than reported. While some incidences are not reported at all.
There are people that care about issues like these. For example, The Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD along with activists like Monica Roberts track information on transgender deaths using the data from LGBTQ communities.
Friends and family of the victims usually do not reveal the correct gender at the time of the investigation. This could be another reason why trans deaths are unaccounted for. It could also be that most of the time the family refuses to acknowledge their gender identity. Some may not have come out to the family. While others would not know how to use the right pronouns.
Incorrect information can lead to misgendering in reports.
That is why Monica Roberts started tracking transgender murder victims and started mentioning it in her blog TransGriot. She started looking for signs on news and social media. She would focus on reports that would describe a man dressed in women’s clothes or something related to the same. Then, she would write about it in her blog. Ever since she has been doing this, she gets responses from people in the community. They would send her tips to broaden her knowledge.
“These transgender people have spent their lives trying to live authentically, trying to be seen in who they are,” McBride said. “To have their life cut short and then to have their identity removed from them is an indignity on top of the ultimate injustice.”
Most of these victims are trans women of color.
Since 2013 the majority of people who are killed are black trans women. Why are only trans black people targeted? Well, the question says it all. They are trans, they are women and they are black. These distinctive identities face the most discrimination. Trans women of color have the highest risk of homicide.
Moreover, black LGBT people have a higher poverty rate compared to white LGBT people. And overall, transgender people have a higher poverty rate than any other segment of the population.
There other reasons that can contribute to the issue.
What more is that some of these victims are killed by an acquaintance or a family member. Transgenders face higher levels of intimate partner violence. And these risks are related to other factors like homelessness or engaging in sex work. Also, transgender people do not get proper justice.
It is not about the numbers. The real issue is to know that this violence is happening. We as a community need to realize that and try to stop it from happening again and again. We need to come together and do something to stop the violence. The conversations need to go beyond what has already happened and focus on how to stop it.
We need to step up to make a change.
Transgender people are facing a number of issues. They face rejection from their families and friends. They re forced into conversion therapies or even kicked out of the home. All this can really affect the person emotionally. At a stage like this, they would have to turn to other means of life. Hence, they experience homelessness and engage in sex work.
This exposes them to risks that lead to death. The Human Rights Campaign is taking an initiative to provide employment opportunities and offer education campaigns to help transgenders. What we can do is to come together and accept the people for who they are. Stop discrimination based on gender and color.