Only three months into 2017, eight transwomen of color have been murdered, putting 2017 on course to be another record-breaking year of trans* murders. On February 22, 2017 GLAAD released a statement calling for better media coverage of the rising rates of transgender murders. From 2014 to 2015 transgender murder rates increased 57%, and from 2015 to 2016 they increased another 23%. Twenty-seven trans* people were murdered in 2016. Most were transwomen of color.
As the Advocate reports, India Monroe was shot to death on December 21st, 2016, but the article wasn’t posted until January 6th because her trans* status was unknown. Though Monroe was out to her friends and family, her parents cut her hair short and buried her with her “dead name,” which is a phrase commonly used by the transgender community to describe the name given to them at birth. “I know for a fact Monroe would not want to be buried that way,” a friend of India’s, Brittany Marquis, told the Advocate. Sadly, India’s case is not an isolated incident.
If not for the work of local advocacy groups, the names of many murdered trans* people would remain unknown, as the corporate media prefers to focus on Caitlyn Jenner or trans people’s access to public restrooms. When murders are covered in the media, police reporting often misidentifies the victims’ genders. Most trans* people are murdered presenting how they identify, but state licenses often don’t represent them properly because of state laws preventing gender marker change on birth certificates and identification cards.
The barriers to acknowledgement are much more varied than just a bigoted bureaucracy. In December 2016, Mic released the first attempt at a comprehensive study of the epidemic ofviolence against the transgender community. “It starts with people hesitating to even go to the police, even when someone is murdered… But at every stage there are bias-based obstacles … and those levels reinforce each other,” according to Shannon Minter, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
While activists are making some progress, there are concerns it might not be enough. Numerous Trump appointees have spoken out strongly against the LGBTQ community at some point in their public careers. On February 22 2017, President Trump rolled back Obama-era title IX guidance on transgender student bathroom use. Four of the eight murders in 2017 occurred within a week of his direction.
“GLAAD Calls for Increased and Accurate Media Coverage of Transgender Murders,” GLAAD, March 23, 2017, http://www.glaad.org/blog/glaad-calls-increased-and-accurate-media-coverage-transgender-murders.
Trudy Ring, “Virginia Woman Is 27th Trans Person Murdered in 2016,” Advocate, January 6, 2017, http://www.advocate.com/transgender/2017/1/06/virginia-woman-27th-trans-person-murdered-2016.
Sandy E. James, Jody L. Herman, Susan Rankin, et al., “The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey,” National Center for Transgender Equality, December 2016, http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS%20Full%20Report%20-%20FINAL%201.6.17.pdf.
“Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives,” Mic, December 7, 2016, https://mic.com/unerased.
Caitlin McCoy and Susan Rahman, “Zero Media Coverage for Transgendered Murder Victims,” Project Censored, April 1, 2015, https://www.projectcensored.org/zero-media-coverage-for-transgendered-murder-victims/.
Student Researcher: Keira Andrews (Syracuse University)
Faculty Evaluator: Jeff Simmons (Syracuse University)