This year, the Human Rights Campaign has recorded at least 21 violent deaths of transgender or gender non-conforming people. In 2019, they tracked at least 27. In what is being called an “epidemic,” 2020 is likely to see more fatal attacks than in 2019.
The Human Rights Campaign says “at least” because “too often these stories go unreported -- or misreported.”
The month of June brought celebrations of LGBTQ+ Pride that often intersected with the Black Lives Matter protests.
Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Trans Justice Initiative, said, “In just four days, we have seen the deaths of at least three transgender and gender non-conforming people […] This horrific spike in violence against our community must be an urgent call to action for every single person in this nation,” in response to the July 1 killing of 32-year-old Shaki Peters.
On July 3, 27-year-old Bree Black was killed in Pompano Beach, Florida, making her the fourth Black transgender woman to be murdered in eight days.
Transgender women of color, particularly Black transgender women, are disproportionately victimized. Eight out of the 21 reported murders this year have been Black transgender women.
Another alarming trend on the Human Rights Campaign’s list of lives lost is that at least five of the killings occurred in Puerto Rico. No other states appear on the list more than once, with the exceptions of Texas and Florida, which both appear twice.
This is not only a murder epidemic.
In May, Kristian Rouse, an 18-year-old Black transgender male, was found by his mother and sister severely beaten in their apartment. His mother is sure it was a hate crime because he was found with his breasts exposed, which would be a “humiliating thing for a transgender male.” Rouse spent four weeks in the ICU. He is still unable to speak due to a buildup of scar tissue in his throat.
In June, a viral video showed 21-year-old Iyanna Dior, a transgender woman, being beaten inside and outside of a convenience store in St. Paul Minnesota. Late one night, Dior was moving a friend’s car when she hit several other cars in the process. When one of the car’s owners demanded she pay with cash that she did not have, she fled the scene out of fear. She asked the owners of a nearby convenience store to call the police for her, but they declined.
The U.S. has seen powerful civil rights movements catch fire since the killing of George Floyd. The voices of historically marginalized and oppressed peoples are being heard and supported in ways never seen before. The institutions the U.S. has functioned on since its inception are collapsing and decaying, making growth and rebirth possible.
Reports that at least seven Black transgender women have been murdered since the beginning of Pride Month are a tragic sign that the fight must rage on.
The Human Rights Campaign has compiled a thorough report called “Dismantling a Culture Of Violence” to demonstrate the conditions that create “a culture of violence.”
It states that anti-transgender stigma can lead to environments that prevent a trans person's full participation in society. These conditions can include homelessness, employment discrimination, exclusion from health care services, and more.
The report is especially informative for allies who may be unsure how to fight for transgender protection and inclusion.
Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign, recently told The Daily Beast, “If we had every person who is supportive theoretically of LGBTQ issues actively engage we can change the political and social landscape so that LGBTQ people are protected moving forward." He then added, "I don’t think we have enough people engaged in this fight.”