Every year on November 20 we take time to honor our trans-identifying brothers and sisters who were killed over the past year, many of them in horrible violent crimes.
It is estimated that around the world five transgender people will be murdered every week. In 2012 alone there have been at least 265 trans people murdered, many of them in violent killings specifically motivated by anti-trans hate.
Some of the victims are identified in the video below:
You may be saying to yourself that, proportionally, even factoring in that trans people are just a fraction of the population, 265 murders worldwide does not sound that much.
It is important to recognize that even in the US it is still common for trans murder victims to be misgendered or their trans identity erased in reports on their deaths. Furthermore, trans identity can be erased by a government that does not recognize transgender people as a cognizable group and thus does not catalog or report on trans-identifying murder victims.
Therefore, when we talk about these murders, we are most likely talking about only a fraction of the fatal crimes perpetrated against transgender people.
This means the process of cataloging the murders of trans-identifying people is doubly important because it is with these figures that we can urge countries into taking action to stop the disproportionately high levels of violence aimed at trans-identifying citizens.
2012 Sees a Continued Increase in Reported Trans Murders
The 2012 death toll adds to the existing number of deaths counted by the TransRespect project. It also shows yet another year-on-year increase in the number of deaths reported.
All major world regions (Africa, Asia, Central and South America, Europe, North America and Oceania), have reported trans murders, many with associated stories of grotesque violence and unabashed hatred for gender nonconforming individuals.
In 2008 TransRespect logged 141 reported cases, in 2009 213 cases, in 2010 214 cases, and in 2011 a large increase to 248.
Most reported cases originated in Central and South America which totals, since the time counting first began, 643 cases over 21 countries. This accounts for roughly 80 percent of the globally reported murders of trans people since January 2008. Central and South America has also seen the steepest increase in trans murders.
There are many reasons for this increase. Undoubtedly, one such reason is that the process of tracking and cataloging trans murders has been improved and refined, in no small part due to online participation from members of the trans community, and therefore the information on these deaths is more readily available.
Another bitter factor could be that trans people are increasingly more visible, and with that comes an associated risk of them being subjected to violent bias motivated crimes.
Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Call to Action
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998.
It is believed that many of these murders can be, at least in part, attributed to the fact that trans identifying people are subjected to wide ranging, and oftentimes institutionalized, discrimination and so are forced into high-risk situations.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) released a groundbreaking study called Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
The study found that one in four transgender people reported being physically assaulted and one in 10 reported being sexually assaulted because of their identity.
Furthermore, 26 percent of transgender people reported losing their job because of their identity, while 50 percent reported being harassed at work.
The survey also found that more than half of transgender and gender non-conforming people reported being bullied, harassed or assaulted in school because of their gender identity.
Over 90 percent of trans people have reported contemplating suicide, while overall suicide rates among trans people remain staggeringly high for their relatively small population size.
It would be wrong, however, to mark this Transgender Day of Remembrance without also highlighting the positive steps that have been made, and sometimes in unlikely places.
Cuba, for instance, just elected its first trans representative. The US, too, saw a handful of trans lawmakers and officials elected on November 6.
The rate of trans visibility (click here for a brilliant timeline by GLAAD) has also increased dramatically in recent years, with high-profiled role models such as Janet Mock, Lana Wachowski, Chaz Bono and Kye Allums, as well as up-and-coming stars like comedian Ian Harvey and radio host and comedian Dina Martinez, all being open and proud of who they are.
In the memory of the 265 people whose lives were claimed this year, then, we move forward advocating for important advances in civil rights, chief among them for the US, the trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would at last give trans people federal work protections and therein help break the spiral of poverty that feeds disproportionately high trans murder rates.
Image credit: Thinkstock.