Groundbreaking Mic story "Unerased" investigates transgender murder cases

Mic today launched "Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives," a comprehensive investigation into the epidemic of violence facing transgender people in the United States, researched and written by journalist Meredith Talusan, a trans woman of color.

The story includes comprehensive data visualizations to illustrate the findings. In collaboration with advocacy organizations, individual advocates, academics, and victims' friends and family, the team at Mic collected and compiled information about every documented transgender homicide from 2010 to 2016, and created an interactive database containing demographic and biographic information about each victim.

Among Talusan's key findings:

  • The database contains 111 trans and gender non-conforming victims
  • 46 (41%) of those cases remain unsolved
  • Black transgender women face the highest rates of violence: 72% of victims between 2010 and 2016 were Black trans women
  • Young Black trans women, ages 15 to 34, are estimated to be between 8 and 39 times more likely to be murdered than young cisgender women
  • If, in 2015, all Americans had the same risk of murder as young Black trans women there would have been 120,087 murders instead of 15,696 murders
  • Of the 25 cases that were tried, 5 involved Black trans women as victims and resulted in lesser charges of manslaughter or assault
  • Of the 25 cases, only 1 with a Black trans woman victim has resulted in a first-degree murder conviction

In "Documenting Trans Homicides," the article accompanying the datase, Talusan found that because some public institutions and officials are not educated about what it means to be transgender, the identities of transgender victims are often erased or effaced after death. This is compounded by several factors, including the fact that transgender people often cannot afford a legal name change, may live in a community where obtaining correct identification on documentation is difficult, or family members reject a trans person's identity and withhold that information from authorities. Therefore the number of victims is likely much higher. 

Of the report, Talusan said: 

"In reporting this story and speaking with family members of transgender homicide victims, we focused on bringing light to systematic failures impacting trans people, especially trans women of color. If everyone in the U.S. were murdered at the rate young Black trans women and femmes are, there's no doubt that the public would consider this a crisis of massive proportion."

Visit mic.com/unerased to read Talusan's article and view the interactive database. To make sure the stories of transgender people are told, and that transgender peoples' lives are accounted for and not erased, Mic has committed to continue tracking transgender homicides through this platform.

The power of a project like Mic's is that in addition to providing information and data about the violence targeting the transgender community and the individual victims, it also provides a framework and contextualization for societal systems that consistently fail to acknowledge, raise awareness of, or offer solutions to a dangerous and alarming reality affecting some of the most vulnerable people in the U.S. 

GLAAD talked to Talusan about the importance of this project:

GLAAD: Why is a project like “Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives” so important?

Talusan: Year after year, lists of trans people who've been murdered come out but the public reaction to and understanding of the epidemic of transgender murder has been limited. When Mic approached me about being involved in "Unerased," it immediately felt like a project that could break through this impasse in public awareness, by systematically accounting for transgender violence over many years, as well as the ways in which the crisis has been ignored not just by the public, but by government and social institutions at multiple levels.

GLAAD: How do you envision the project will contribute to the cultural conversation?

Talusan: I hope that it allows the public to more fully understand the gravity and specificity of the crisis of transgender violence. It's easy to dismiss a major problem when it affects a relatively small group of people. But it erodes our social fabric when trans people, especially Black trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes, are under so much greater threat of violence than the vast majority of Americans.

GLAAD: For you personally, why was this an important project  for you to help take on?

Talusan: As a transfeminine person of color myself who has experienced threats of violence, and have had close friends who’ve been attacked, I have a personal interest in intersectional transgender issues because of my lived experience. My background as a journalist and researcher also puts me in a good position to engage in the enormous amount of work required to investigate and quantify various aspects of the more than 100 documented cases of transgender homicide since 2010, so the project felt like the perfect coupling of my interests and capabilities.

Take part in the conversation by sharing this impactful project and using the hashtag #unerased.