Concern and fear is growing within the transgender community in the United States due to an alarming spike in the number of murders being committed against its members in the past 12 months.
The Guardian reports that murders have almost doubled over 2014, with an estimated 22 transgender or “gender non-conforming” individuals being killed in 2015 thus far. Last year, 12 hate-motivated murders were reported, with the overwhelming majority against transgender women of color. The information was gathered by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP).
A spokesperson for the group, Chai Jindasurat, labels the increase in murders of transgender individuals as a “state of emergency for our communities.” This statement has been echoed by another activist, Ja’Leah Shavers, who is an organizer for an LGBTQ youth group in New Orleans called BreakOUT!, who uses the term “epidemic” and states there is an anger in the transgender community because of the murders that has them wanting to speak up and increase visibility.
There is some dispute over the exact number of murders according to Fusion; however, what is clear is that they have dramatically increased against transgender people over the last year. In fact, the 2015 rates are the highest on record since NCAVP began keeping track in 1999, and the year is not even over yet. They also report that out of the transgender murders this year, at the time they reported the number in late August, only nine suspects had been arrested. Furthermore, the International Business Times states that roughly half of the murders were committed against transgender women involved in the sex trade.
According to the New York Times, even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has spoken out over the issue of violence against the transgender community and in particular showed great concern for transgender women of color, calling the problem a “national crisis.” She declared that “Transgender people are valued, they are loved, they are us,” when speaking to Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group.
But why would murders in the transgender community increase so much over the course of one year? The Las Vegas Review Journal reports Kevin Nadal, the head of the Center for LGBTQ Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, as stating that one of the reasons could be blowback from the very public and celebrated outing of Caitlyn Jenner, who has been in the spotlight since transitioning from being Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner.
“In general if you look at history a lot of times, whenever there are positive moves for historically marginalized groups there tends to be a backlash.”
“Right now we’re experiencing a Dickensian time, where it’s the best of times and it’s the worst of times at once. We’re seeing a marked increase in the public awareness about transgender people and really incredible progress for trans rights, especially from a legal perspective. At the same time, we still represent and are part of a community that experiences incredibly high rates of unemployment, poverty and violence.”
To further help understand the crisis the transgender community is facing, the International Business Times states that NCAVP now wants to start tracking what weapons are being used in crimes targeting LGBTQ people, according to Emily Waters, research and education coordinator for the organization.
“Given the high number of community members we have lost this year specifically to gun violence, this is something we are starting to look at more closely.”
As activists and rights groups raise the red flag over violence aimed at the transgender community, highlighted by the record high rate of murders, pressure on the government to tackle the issue head-on continues. And the hope is that society will understand the problems being faced and help confront the root causes of violence to end murders of transgender individuals.
[Feature image by Allison Joyce/Getty Images]