The surge of violence against transgender people in the United States has passed a grim milestone. In just seven months, the number of transgender people murdered in 2020 has surpassed the total for all of 2019.
At least 28 transgender people have been murdered so far this year compared to 26 last year. According to data collected by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 23 of the victims were transgender women, four were transgender men and one was non-binary. The epidemic of violence is particularly pronounced for Black and Latina trans women.
“Transgender people – and particularly Black and Latina transgender women – are marginalized, stigmatized and criminalized in our country. They face violence every day, and they fear turning to the police for help,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director for the National Center for Transgender Equality.
To stem the violence targeting transgender people requires increased access to safe, affordable housing, policies that protect transgender people from discrimination and increase economic opportunity, and improved police training.
“This crisis demands change to improve policing and hold the police departments accountable for their failure to protect transgender people. But reforms must go further to disrupt the systemic racism and transphobia that push so many transgender people of color into vulnerable situations, shut out of stable housing, secure jobs and loving homes. No one should be forced to live in fear,” Heng-Lehtinen said.
Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, 33, was stabbed to death in Portland, Oregon while attending a vigil for murder victim Tyrell Penney, People magazine reports.
Rhone-Spears became at least the 28th transgender person murdered this year.
“Another Black transgender woman is dead, killed in an act of violence while attending a vigil for a murder victim,” Heng-Lehtinen said. “We must remember the names of the victims of these violent crimes and demand justice.”
In NCTE’s U.S. Transgender Survey, which included more than 28,000 respondents, nearly half (47%) of all Black respondents reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in the previous year because of being transgender. Nearly one in ten (9%) were physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender. Black transgender women (14%) were more likely to be physically attacked in the previous year because of being transgender, compared to Black non-binary people (8%) and transgender men (7%).
Also in NCTE’s U.S. Transgender Survey, 30% of all Latino respondents reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in the previous year because of being transgender. Nearly one in ten (9%) were physically attacked in the previous year because of being transgender. Latina transgender women (12%) and non-binary people (10%) were more likely to be physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender, compared to Latino transgender men (7%).
Nearly 57% of all respondents said that they were afraid to go to the police when they needed help. And 58% of transgender people who interacted with law enforcement reported experiences of harassment, abuse or other mistreatment. More than 60% reported being physically assaulted and 64% reporting being sexually assaulted.
In 2019, NCTE published “Failing To Protect & Serve,” an audit of policies of the 25 largest police departments in the country. The biggest finding was that police departments in the United States are failing to protect transgender people.
Names of those murdered, compiled by NCTE:Dustin Parker, McAlester, OK Alexa Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico Yampi Méndez Arocho, Moca, Puerto Rico Monica Diamond, Charlotte, NC Lexi, New York, NY Johanna Metzger, Baltimore, MD Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Bayamon, Puerto Rico Layla Pelaez Sánchez, Puerto Rico Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, Puerto Rico Nina Pop, Sikeston, MO Helle Jae O’Regan, San Antonio, TX Tony McDade, Tallahassee, FL Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells, Philadelphia, PA Riah Milton, Liberty Township, OH Jayne Thompson, Mesa County, CO Selena Reyes Hernandez, Chicago, IL Brayla Stone, Sherwood, AR Merci Mack, Dallas, TX Shaki Peters, Amite City, LA Bree “Nuk” Black, Pompano Beach, FL Summer Taylor, Seattle, WA Draya McCarty, Baton Rouge, LA Tatiana Hall, Philadelphia, PA Marilyn Cazares, Brawley, CA Tiffany Harris, The Bronx, NY Queasha D. Hardy, Baton Rouge, LA Brian "Egypt" Powers, Akron, OH Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, Portland, OR