by Sarah McBride
Today, HRC Foundation released A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2018, a heartbreaking report honoring the at least 22 transgender people killed in 2018 and detailing the contributing and motivating factors that lead to this tragic violence. The report comes a day ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual commemoration of the transgender people killed during the preceding year.
“On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we join together to mourn the lives lost to hate and violence this past year and rededicate ourselves to the urgent action that this epidemic requires,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “From anti-trans employment and housing discrimination to systemic racism, we must recognize the intersecting factors that influence, motivate and embolden the violence that plagues so many within the transgender community — particularly Black and Latina transgender women. White, cisgender men like me have a unique responsibility to support our transgender siblings in combating this violence, and join fully in the work to achieve equality for every person in the LGBTQ community.”
“At least 128 transgender people — the vast majority transgender women of color — have been killed in the last five years,” said Jay Brown, acting senior vice president, HRC Foundation. “But most people can’t even name one victim — one human being who left behind family, friends and a future. We must do better. Solidarity means showing up, speaking out, saying their names and steadfastly working to change the realities that conspire to put transgender people at risk of violence. We can do better.”
The new report found that since the start of the year, at least 22 transgender people have been killed in the U.S. The 12 months of 2017 were deadliest on record, with at least 29 transgender people killed. Since January 2013, HRC has documented at least 128 transgender people who were victims of fatal violence; at least 110 were transgender people of color. Nearly nine in every 10 victims were transgender women and 45 percent of all domestic deaths occurred in the U.S. South. These disturbing numbers likely underreport deadly violence targeting transgender people, who may not be properly identified as transgender.
The report also includes data on deaths where explicit violence may not have been present, but where hate, indifference, and dehumanization no doubt contributed to the person’s passing. Among these stories is that of Roxana Hernández, a 33-year-old transgender Latina woman, who died while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after seeking asylum after fleeing anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination in Honduras.
The report also explores many of the factors that can contribute to or facilitate fatal violence. In many instances, systemic discrimination at the intersection of gender identity and race lead to significant barriers to employment and housing. This pushes many transgender people into underground economies to survive, including sex work, and into circumstances where they may be more likely to face violence. Additionally, anti-LGBTQ animus coupled with too-easy access to guns and increasing political attacks on the transgender community only embolden the often violent prejudice facing transgender people.
There are a number of actions lawmakers can take to address the violence, including enhancing law enforcement response and training; improving data collection and reporting; reforming laws that have the impact of criminalizing marginalized communities and undermining public health; passing non-discrimination protections; and, adopting common-sense gun violence protections.
Today’s release of A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2018 also marks the conclusion of HRC’s commemoration of Transgender Awareness Week, which is dedicated to the progress and unfinished work in the fight for transgender equality. Late last week, HRC released a new report detailing the alarming challenges and barriers facing transgender and gender-expansive youth around the country — and their perseverance in the face of discrimination and harassment.
On Tuesday, transgender people and their allies will gather in communities across the country to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance. For more information on Transgender Awareness Week and HRC’s work on transgender equality, visit http://www.hrc.org/explore/topic/transgender.