HRC Implores Lawmakers to Address Anti-Trans Violence As Number of Trans People Murdered Rises

by Sarah McBride

WASHINGTON – In the wake of the deaths of at least seven transgender people in just the first two months of this year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, today called on lawmakers to address the epidemic of anti-transgender violence. HRC also urged law enforcement officials and members of the media to improve their reporting and coverage of these tragic deaths.

“The chilling reality of anti-transgender violence is an urgent crisis for our country,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Transgender women of color face a toxic combination of transphobia and racism that together fuel an environment of often fatal violence. In just two months since the start of 2017, the lives of Jamie Lee, Mesha, JoJo, Tiara, Chyna, Ciara, Jaquarrius -- and potentially others whose names remain unknown -- have been tragically cut short. The heartbreak of these murders is only amplified by the reality that their lives and identities are too-often disrespected in reporting by law enforcement and coverage by the media. At the same time that allies and advocates are calling on the federal government to protect transgender youth, all of us must also loudly declare that Native American, Latinx, and Black trans lives matter and implore elected leaders, the media and our own communities to finally address this epidemic of violence. Lives literally depend upon it.”

At least seven trans people – six Black transgender women and one Native American transgender woman – have been murdered in 2017. Within the last two weeks, three transgender women of color were murdered in the state of Louisiana. In many instances, law enforcement and the media repeatedly misgendered the victims of these crimes, undermining their identities and adding to the pain of their loved ones.

Those lost to violence in 2017 include:

Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Sioux Falls, SD

Mesha Caldwell, Canton, MS

JoJo Striker, Toledo, OH

Tiara Richmond, Chicago, IL

Chyna Doll Depree, New Orleans, LA

Ciara McElveen, New Orleans, LA

Jaquarrius Holland, Monroe, LA

This violence follows a reported a rise in general hate-based violent crimes and harassment according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Late last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released hate crimes statistics for 2015 that showed an uptick in all bias-motivated incidents reported last year, and an increase in gender identity-based reported hate crimes -- from 31 in 2013 to 114 in 2015. The FBI data paints an incomplete picture as reporting is not mandatory and many law enforcement agencies throughout the country did not submit data.  

In 2016, at least 22 transgender people were fatally shot, stabbed, or killed by other violent means. HRC released A Matter of Life and Death: Fatal Violence Against Transgender People in America 2016 last November. The report notes that in many instances the violence is fueled by a deadly combination of anti-LGBTQ animus, racism, easy access to guns and increasingly hateful social and political rhetoric. Just last week, the Trump Administration rescinded lifesaving guidance regarding the fair and respectful treatment of transgender students, removing a vital layer of security and support for transgender young people across the country. The action by the Trump Administration followed weeks of policy announcements targeting undocumented residents, women, Muslims and refugees.

There are several steps lawmakers and policymakers can take to address anti-transgender violence, including enhancing hate crimes data collection requirements, passing comprehensive nondiscrimination protections, including the federal Equality Act, and improving training for law enforcement.

For media covering transgender people, a resource guide on terminology and coverage is available here:

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.



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