Here’s Why We Need to Act Now on Anti-Trans Violence

This past week marked Transgender Day of Remembrance, a time to honor our trans brothers and sisters who have been lost to pervasive and devastating violence.

With that in mind, the HRC Foundation and the Trans People of Color Coalition, or TPOCC, released a new report examining the state of violence aimed at the community. The review, called “A Time to Act: Fatal Violence Against Transgender People in America in 2017,” uses the stories of the trans people lost this year to highlight the factors that contribute to — or even create — the fatal violence.

“Each of the stories featured in this report is unique, tragic and devastating,” TPOCC Executive Director Kylar Broadus explained. “Unpacking these stories is a difficult but necessary process if we as a society want to protect the most vulnerable and address the root causes for their unjust and premature deaths.”

The report contains some sobering facts:

At least 25 transgender people have been killed in the United States since the beginning of 2017. Eighty-four percent of them were people of color, and 80 percent were women. More than three in four were under the age of 35.

And it’s worth keeping in mind that these are just the trans deaths that we know about. Indeed, across the world the deaths of trans people are most likely significantly under-reported. While several police departments have taken steps to create new regulations and policies for identifying trans people, not all do so with the necessary respect. As a result, trans people may not be recognized as trans or may be misgendered.

The report goes on to detail the lives of some of the victims’ of anti-trans violence this year, and these stories are both harrowing and eye-opening.

Here is Sean Ryan Hake’s story, as highlighted in the report:

On January 6, Sean Ryan Hake, 23, was shot multiple times by a police officer in Sharon, Pennsylvania. Hake, who had previously posted on Youtube about his own process toward self-acceptance as a transgender man, was killed in his home after Hake’s mother called 911 to report that her son was suicidal and acting violent. One friend recalled that Sean “had a genuinely good heart and he had struggled with his problems.” Police say Hake first threatened to put a razor blade to his mother’s throat and then repeatedly refused police orders to put down a utility knife before they opened fire. The District Attorney has not pressed charges, arguing that the shooting was justified. On July 21, Hake’s family filed a lawsuit against the Sharon Police Department, alleging that the officers involved in the incident violated his civil rights and used excessive force. In September, a federal judge ordered that mediation for the case be held by November.

Hake’s story touches on the multiple stress factors that can make trans people particularly vulnerable to mental health issues. Without commenting on the specifics of the case, it also speaks to why police officers need deescalation training that proactively addresses how to handle people who are in mental health crisis. We know that such training can save lives, but America’s underfunded and undermanned police force hasn’t been able to invest. State laws on how to treat mental health crisis can also make the situation worse.

Another story, that of Jo Jo Striker, points to how a failure to recognize bias-motivated crimes can be part of a systemic failure in validating trans identity:

“Funny and entertaining” are just a few words people used to describe JoJo Striker, 23, a Black transgender woman, who was found dead in a garage with a single gunshot wound in Toledo, Ohio, on February 8. Her family loved her deeply. Although police do not have any leads, Striker’s mother, Shanda Striker, said, “The police told us to leave it alone but that will never happen because I will always search for [JoJo's] killer. This is a hate crime and it needs to stop.” Ohio’s hate crimes law does not include crimes motivated by gender identity. Striker was misgendered in the initial media and police reports.

How can we change things?

The White House must immediately stop its fight against LGBT people under the Civil Rights Act and the Education Act. This leaves trans individuals vulnerable to discrimination that drives poverty and joblessness, pushing some to make choices that could put them in further danger of victimization.

Furthermore, we need to recognize the endemic race problems that bring elevated risks of violence to black citizens and other racial minorities.

What’s more, we should closely scrutinize the relationship between domestic and intimate partner violence and wider gun crime and gun violence. After all, evidence suggests that the two are intimately linked. Given that trans people — and trans women of color, in particular — are often victims of gun crime, sensible gun restrictions would help stop the flow of guns into violent hands.

Lastly, progressives as a whole need to be firmer in disavowing and fighting against anti-trans sentiment — especially when the conservatives attempt to use women’s safety to shield their prejudices. Trans people are made out to be disturbed, potential sexual predators by the right. This report shows not only that the accusation entirely baseless, but also that it is trans people themselves who have much to fear from society –not the other way around.

Photo Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr

55 comments

Marie W
Marie W6 months ago

Thank you for the post.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago

thank you

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago

thank you

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Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks

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Mike R
Mike R10 months ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R10 months ago

Thanks

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson11 months ago

ty

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson11 months ago

ty

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R11 months ago

Don't compartmentalize! We need to act on ALL violence NOW!

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