Transgender Lives Lost to Violence

by Vins

As Transgender Day of Remembrance came around on November 20, 2020, Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide (TVT) released figures documenting the homicides of trans and gender-diverse people within the last year. TVT documented 350 deaths worldwide of trans and gender-diverse people between October 1, 2019 and September 30,2020, due to violence. These numbers represent a six percent increase since the same time last year, and do not include the unreported cases of trans and gender-diverse homicides, which are suspected to be many. TVT started their research in 2008, and since then have documented 3,664 trans and gender-diverse homicides worldwide. This number is only a fraction of those killed because many of the victims are often mis-gendered by police, media, or families, or go completely unreported.

Transgender deaths due to violence are mostly among trans women and those who identify as transfeminine, making up 98 percent of the deaths. Among the 98 percent killed, 82 percent of trans and gender-diverse deaths were in Central or South America, with 43 percent in Brazil alone. Sixty-two percent of the transgender deaths were known to be sex workers. A significant percentage of US trans and gender-diverse deaths are also people of color and migrant workers: 79 percent of US victims were people of color, and half of those were killed in Europe as migrants. The average age of these victims is 31 years old, with the youngest victim only 15 years old.

A press release from TVT noted, “Behind the statistical representation of numbers and percentages, there are people whose lives we value and who we, as societies, failed to protect.” The group is putting the blame on social stigma and the criminalization of sex work, for exposing sex workers to exploitation and violence. Racism and police brutality are also contributing factors in the violence against trans and gender-diverse people. In more recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has also put the lives of trans people as greater risk, especially the young, poor, sex workers, migrants, and people of color. The press release adds, “at the same time, those groups are repeatedly silenced and underrepresented within our communities and societies. Although COVID affects us all, social differences and inequalities are deepened by the pandemic, emphasizing gaps in lack of legislation and systemic protection of trans and gender-diverse people.”

There is little in the corporate news media that addresses the issue of trans and gender-diverse lives lost to violence. A November 2020 article in USA Today underreported trans and gender-diverse homicides. The article states how young trans people are “thriving,” but have faced some difficulties along the way. USA Today addresses a “sad milestone” that at least 34 transgender or gender nonconforming people that were killed. The article goes on to say that according to the Human Rights Coalition, most of the 34 victims were Black or Latino women. This is where the reporting of violence against trans and gender-diverse people stops, as far as the USA Today article was concerned.

Source: Trudy Ring, “350 Transgender Lives Lost to Violence in Past Year,” Advocate, November 16, 2020, https://www.advocate.com/transgender/2020/11/16/350-transgender-lives-lost-violence-past-year.

Student Researcher: Anna LaCourt (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)