Deadly Violence Against Transgender People Is on the Rise. The Government Isn’t Helping.

In recent years, the number of transgender and nonbinary people murdered has hit record highs. This year, the alarming trend is expected to continue.

According to one survey, one in four transgender people have been assaulted because they are trans. The majority of deadly attacks against transgender people are against women of color. In Jacksonville, Florida, four Black transgender women have been shot in the last six months alone. Three of them were killed.

The pattern has alarmed activists locally and nationally. Civil rights groups have asked the Department of Justice to investigate the Jacksonville attacks and provide training on responding to this kind of violence for local law enforcement.

A recent investigative report by ProPublica on the murders in Jacksonville found that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) consistently misidentified the victims by referring to them as men and by the names given to them at birth. Invalidating the identity of a trans person by invoking an abandoned birth-designated name is known as “deadnaming.” This practice negates the truth of transgender victims’ lives and prevents accurate investigations into their deaths.   

The report found that nationally, across 65 law enforcement agencies investigating trans murders since January 2015, “in 74 of 85 cases, victims were identified by names or genders they had abandoned in their daily lives.” If a woman who is transgender is killed and reported as male, then her community may not be accurately informed of her death and witnesses may not know to come forward.

Erasing the truth of trans lives, even in death, is also a demoralizing blow to the trans community. Activist and actress Laverne Cox responded to the ProPublica report on Instagram, recalling a time she contemplated suicide and feared the truth of her life being erased in death:

Being misgendered and deadnamed in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult to the psychological and emotional injuries I was experiencing daily as a black trans woman in New York City, the injuries that made me want to take my own life.

The trauma of being denied a claim to one’s own truth is reason enough to stop the practice of deadnaming and misgendering transgender people. But practically speaking, deadly violence against transgender people, including by suicide, is fueled by this kind of government action that legitimizes anti-trans bias by perpetuating the idea that a trans person’s name and gender aren’t “real.”

Deadnaming isn’t the only government practice contributing to pervasive bias. In many states, it is difficult to impossible for transgender people to update the gender marker listed on their driver’s license or birth certificate. Even where such changes are permissible, many transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, live in poverty and cannot afford to see a doctor to obtain the required documentation to make the change or pay the fees to the agencies that issue identification. Without identification matching their gender, transgender people can be “outed” as transgender in routine interactions at bars, movie theatres, hospitals, or with police. Such interactions can lead to harassment and violence.

As the ProPublica report documented, being known as transgender also leads to pervasive job discrimination. Without laws explicitly protecting them from discrimination, many transgender people — particularly trans people of color who also experience systemic racism — face housing and food insecurity, homelessness, and criminalization.

Without safe access to public spaces — whether shelters, libraries, stores, hospitals, or the workplace — transgender people are perilously situated and face heightened risks of violence. If you are being followed but can’t duck into a restaurant without fearing rejection, humiliation, and discrimination, your risk of violence escalates. If you are homeless and can’t safely access shelter because you are transgender, your risk of violence escalates as you navigate street-based homelessness. If you cannot find stable work and you need to participate in criminalized economies like the drug or sex trades to survive, your risk of violence escalates.

The insistence on ignoring the truth of a transgender person’s name and gender in the midst of the systemic factors that contribute to violence, truly is, as Cox noted, adding insult to grievous injury.

If we are to stop the staggering rise of violence against trans women of color in Jacksonville and across the country, we must take meaningful steps to recognize the basic humanity of trans people in life and in death.

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Anonymous

Did it never occur to you that the increase in violence is against women? Welcome to second class. Police brutality against women is on the rise. Transgender 'women' are attacked just like any woman. Now it's "fluid", not women, but only trans while lesbians are again ignored, women are ignored by the LGBT community.
If you think you're woman enough, stand up for women's rights. If you are a man in a dress one day and a woman another and bi or straight or questioning or any other man, you are not a woman.
Women born women have put up with this OUR WHOLE LIVES. It's not about you. It's the patriarchy, the status quo, the way of man. Degrade, dominate and destroy, the way of man.

Anonymous

I agree. As we see the patriarchy become afraid of loosing thier power the violence against women rises. Take some consolense in the fact that trans people both women and men alike are on the side of the matriarch.

Anonymous

Why is it that Transgender women are only invited to the feminists' table is when someone is telling us the whole 'welcome to womanhood' speech while silencing us everywhere else? And, putting quote marks around the word 'woman' when the word 'transgender' precedes it is symptomatic of the problem.
Why, also, does discussing violence against transgender people (not just women) raise hackles so much? I'm hearing a lot of that standby argument that transgender = erasure for women. It just ain't so, and it brings up a truly missed opportunity for the feminist movement: to remove the quote marks, invite us into the discussion, gain both the benefit of our perspective and a whole platoon of support for a common cause.
We are not here to erase the women's movement. We are here because we are who we are.
And, yes, there is an increase in violence against every marginalized population that exists. It's just too bad that we all treat each other as impositions against each ourselves. Instead, we all jockey for the spotlight as if our narrative is somehow more important than everyone else's. Hint: it is not. But I'll guarantee that the women's movement (the population of which is exponentially larger than that of the trans community) can have it's voice without silence ours.

Anonymous

Trans women are murdered not only because their women, but because people like you throw air quotes around our gender, spreading the idea that we’re just a bunch of twisted perverted weirdos instead of people trying to live a normal life.

Stop it.

Anonymous

You deserve a fist to the face

Anonymous

"According to one survey, one in four transgender people have been assaulted because they are trans."
Are one in four women overall being assaulted just for being women? If so, please provide sources proving as much.
Also, of course it is the patriarchy. Trans people are a threat to the sexist, misogynistic system that exists in our society. It sounds like you are blaming trans people for this, though, which doesn't quite make sense. Trans women are women and most of us have put up with this our whole lives, too (cis men tend to attack feminine-acting folks even when they present as guys, either out of protection or because people keep trying to tell us we aren't actually women). Notice, too, that this article says that ALL kinds of trans people, not just trans women, are being assaulted and killed at an increasing rate. Therefore, it is not just about women (cis or otherwise). In your own words, "It's not about you."

Dr. Timothy Leary

"You deserve a fist to the face." Does anyone here get the joke besides me?

Anonymous

Trans women ARE women. As I understand it, that's the whole point of the exercise. Men in dresses are drag queens if they are performing in front of an audience, or if they're just wearing a dress because they feel like wearing a dress, that would be cross-dressing if they're cis men, or I suppose non-gender binary dressing if they are NGB. Yes, being a woman makes a person second-class. That's not great, but it's not the same as the fact that trans women are women. Trans women, I'm sorry you have to be in the second-class soup with me and the other cis women, but you are welcome to help us in the struggle to get out of this kettle.

Chaddy

Is there any data breaking down hate crimes against trans folks by city or region? My Google fu is failing me

Olivia-Mai

Look at the assholes with no proof acusing all transgender ....
Anonymous Freek
Can't tell your real name to pitch your ass crap.
Go duck yourself

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