When will it end?: Documenting the U.S. epidemic of anti-trans hate violence in 2017

It has been another deadly year for trans people, with at least 23 reported homicides in the first ten months of 2017. This is sadly unsurprising in a year that began with the election of a man to the White House who has appointed anti-LGBTQ  individuals to his administration and has been littered with more discussions of transphobic legislation in state legislatures than any year in recent past. The appointment of anti-LGBTQ activists to White House positions merely serves to further validate and normalize anti-transgender attitudes among the general public. Recently, Trump became the first sitting president to speak at the Family Research Council's Values Voter summit, a meeting of various groups united by negative opinions of and discriminatory actions against LGBTQ people. This comes just a few months after an official White House webpage posted a link directing readers to a Heritage Foundation article that referred to being transgender as a "psychological disorder." For more information on Trump's anti-LGBTQ aggressions, see Donald Trump: Trump Accountability Project.

Some of the most alarming statistics about this year's transgender victims are as follows:

  • Of the 23 transgender people killed in 2017, 20 of them (87%) were transgender women
  • A staggering 95% of the transgender women killed were also women of color
  • In 2017, 74% of the murders of trans people were committed in states whose majority voted red in the 2016 presidential election
  • 65% of this year's victims were part of the millennial generation

A breakdown of the data of this year's victims yields many of the same trends as data from years past. The most notable trend is the alarmingly disproportionate rate at which transgender women are killed in relation to other transgender people. Of the 23 transgender people killed in 2017, 20 of them (87%) were transgender women. As both transgender people and women, they face at least two intersecting forms of oppression – sexism and transphobia – and the astonishingly high murder rates reflect this. Consistent with data from years past, a horrifying 95% of the transgender women killed were also women of color. In addition to the two forms of oppression faced by white transgender women, transgender women of color also face the effects of racism, putting them at higher risk for poverty, discrimination, and violence. 

With political tensions continuing to build, it is unsurprising that the contrast of anti-trans crime rate is so stark between states that voted red in the 2016 presidential election and states that voted blue. In 2017, 17 (74%) known cases of anti-trans violence were committed in red states. Eight (47%) of these murders occurred in states that either attempted or successfully passed anti-trans legislation during the 2017 calendar year. During the time that a state's legislature debates these anti-trans bills, transphobic voices routinely appear in media, which may contribute to an increase in anti-trans sentiment in that state.

Perhaps due in part to the fact that there are more out transgender people in the millennial generation than in older generations, a breakdown of data by age reveals that 15 (65%) of the victims were millennials. This is a significantly higher percentage of victims than the three other generations combined, with four (18%) of the victims in Generation X, three (13%) of the victims in Generation Z, and only one (4%) of the victims in the baby boomer generation.

As is common in cases of anti-trans violence, at least 19 of those who were killed in 2017 were either misgendered, dead named, or both in initial media accounts of their deaths. Even when faced with a number of gender cues suggesting that the victim may not live as the sex they were assigned at birth, many law enforcement officials opt to report an individual's birth sex and birth name instead of exerting effort to ensure that they correctly identify the victim. It is often only after being corrected by a victim's family, friends, local LGBTQ organizations, or GLAAD, that some journalists agree to amend their stories. Additionally, charges have been filed in less than half of this year's cases, which suggests that law enforcement may not take the murders of transgender individuals seriously. Misgendering and dead naming by law enforcement often leads to similar actions by reporters, which results in misinformation in media. It is crucial that reporters be educated in regards to sensitive reporting on transgender victims of crime. For tips on how to do this, please see GLAAD's Tip Sheet: Doubly Victimized: Reporting on Transgender Victims of Crime.

It continues to be important that we, as a community, remain vigilant in combatting transphobia in any way that we can. In the face of such continually heartbreaking statistics on acts of anti-trans violence, it may seem difficult to remain hopeful that there is a brighter future in store for the transgender community – but there is.

On Trans Day of Remembrance, let's honor the transgender people who were so tragically taken from us this year, not just by speaking about their deaths, but by doing our part to strive towards equality and respect for the transgender community as a whole.