Transgender Awareness Week: What to watch
Transgender Awareness Week is an annual period ahead of Transgender Remembrance Day that promotes transgender visibility.
At least 33 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed in the past year in the U.S., the vast majority of them people of color, according to an annual tally compiled by the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group.
The Human Rights Campaign’s annual report was released Monday to coincide with Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance memorializing transgender and gender non-conforming people whose lives have been lost to anti-transgender violence.
“The epidemic of violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people is a national tragedy and a national embarrassment,” organization president Kelly Robinson said in a press release. “Each of the lives taken is the result of a society that demeans and devalues anyone who dares challenge the gender binary.”
The average age of those killed in the past year was 28, and most died by gun violence, according to the annual “Epidemic of Violence” report released by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the HRC’s educational arm.
“The 33 people we lost in the last year were overwhelmingly young and people of color, with Black trans women disproportionately impacted,” Robinson said.
More than 26,000 people died by homicide nationwide in 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 2.8 million people in the U.S. identify as transgender or nonbinary, according to the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Law. The figure tallied by the Human Rights Campaign represents .001% of that population.
Black trans women at highest risk
The organization’s 2023 figure was slightly higher than last year’s total of 32. Robinson said the numbers likely don’t reflect the actual total, given that such deaths sometimes go unreported or misreported, or are initially misclassified because of misgendering.
That point was echoed by Kris Tassone, policy director for the National Center for Transgender Equality, whose own tally was even higher, counting 53 transgender lives lost to violence based on police reports, obituaries, submissions from friends and family, and collaboration with other activists.
“While the numbers are a compelling way to quantify the problem of violence against our communities, it is important to remember that TDOR is about remembering the names and the stories of those we have lost,” Tassone said. “Each story was a person who deserved a full life free from discrimination and hate, and their loved ones mourn their loss.”
Since 2013, the Human Rights Campaign has recorded 335 such deaths, 85% of them people of color.
Of the 33 killings that occurred between Nov. 21, 2022, and Nov. 20, 2023, 90% were people of color, with Black transgender women comprising more than six in 10 victims.
They were people like Tortuguita, a 26-year-old environmental activist who was shot by police while protesting construction of a police and fire training center near Atlanta; London Starr, a 40-year-old Black transgender woman who died last year after being shot in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2017; and Chyna Long, a 31-year-old Black transgender woman fatally shot in Milwaukee while visiting her father.
Nearly four in five (79%) victims in the Human Rights Campaign report were under the age of 35, and the killer was unknown in a third of the cases.
More than half (51.5%) were initially misgendered by police or in news reports, the report said.
Robinson, of the HRC, noted the increasing rhetoric, threats of violence and legislation targeting the transgender community in recent years, including laws banning gender-affirming health care, bomb threats directed at libraries and hospitals that support trans and nonbinary people and last year’s mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ+ establishment in Colorado Springs.
“Each of these grotesque actions serves to increase stigma and create a hostile environment that endangers the lives of anyone outside the gender binary,” Robinson said.
Are anti-trans legislation, rhetoric part of the problem?
Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign declared a “national state of emergency” for LGBTQ+ Americans for the first time in its 40+-year history, citing what it said were more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state houses across the country. More than 80 were signed into law.
Meanwhile, hate crimes based on gender identity rose by nearly a third (32.7%) between 2021 and 2022, the FBI reported.
Tori Cooper of the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative said the fact that nearly two-thirds of victims were Black trans women is a crisis rooted in, among other things, racism, toxic masculinity and transphobia.
“These victims had families, friends, hopes, dreams,” Cooper said. “None of them deserved to have their lives stolen by horrific violence.”