As the death count in the transgender community grows, so does the need for engaging allies to help combat the ongoing violence and discrimination. In 2019 there have been 18 known killings of transgender women of color. It is expected that there may be more unreported deaths than the ones recorded, as the accuracy of the data collected when reporting these crimes can be skewed due to misgendering and deadnaming (using a person’s birth name rather than their chosen name) by law enforcement.
Experts at the American Medical Association (AMA) have asserted the rise in violence against the transgender community is on the rise; and have gone so far as to state that fatal violence against transgender people is an “epidemic.”
Violence against the transgender community has been going on for years. In 2018, for example, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) found that at least 26 transgender people were killed. Of those killed, 82% were women of color, 64% were younger than the age of 35, and 55% lived in the US South, according to a report from the HRC. They also reported that of the crimes reported last year, 74% of victims were misgendered in initial police or media reports.
HRC has increased their organization’s advocacy and programs in scope and impact, but there is much work to do. Over the past 10 years, HRC has become more vocal about transgender-specific issues, advocating for and passing critical gender identity non-discrimination protections in various states, and calling out anti-transgender violence, particularly that which targets transgender women of color.
HRC realizes that addressing the barriers to employment, housing, and safety that transgender people face in their daily lives needs to be made a priority.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, transgender people of color also experience higher levels of unemployment than their white counterparts and are nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than the general population. Black and Latinx transgender individuals also experience higher rates of poverty.
Many transgender people also struggle with suicidal ideation, with 40% of transgender people reporting that they have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
“We are in the midst of a national crisis. People are dying, and the response must be swift, strong and rooted in solutions the transgender community is rightfully demanding,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement. “In meetings with activists all over the country, time and again I have heard about systemic failures that are pushing many transgender people out of a job, on to the streets and into desperate and dangerous situations for survival. Through this new initiative, we aim to help change these realities. Change will not come over night and it will not come from any single organization or person. But the Human Rights Campaign will be a part of the work to help build the capacity of leaders already on the frontlines of this fight.”
“We are in the midst of a national crisis. People are dying, and the response must be swift, strong and rooted in solutions the transgender community is rightfully demanding.”
According to HRC.org the campaign’s expanded work will seek to address many of the persistent and insidious barriers to employment, housing and safety faced by transgender people, especially transgender women of color. The expansion includes four main pillars:
- Economic empowerment is a central part of true lived equality. HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index has helped
reshape the workforce for transgender people — but far too many still can’t
access pathways to employment.
- HRC will leverage our strengths and partnerships to deliver new economic opportunities.
- HRC will engage in a partnership with Trans Can Work to join with community-based organizations and corporate America to address the employment gap through trainings and career fairs in up to five major U.S. cities over the next year. A Los Angeles-based nonprofit founded in 2016 by restaurateur Michaela Mendelsohn, Trans Can Work is committed to empowering gender diverse communities through career navigation, workforce development, and job placement.
- The march toward justice for transgender people must be led by transgender people, which is why HRC is expanding our training and professional development programs for transgender advocates, activists and community leaders of color.
- This year, HRC launched ELEVATE, which focuses on professional and leadership development for trans people of color in public health fields. Ten fellows will participate in the first class of this program, which provides intensive in-person training and a series of interactive webinars throughout the year.
- HRC is also announcing the creation of ACTIVATE, a fellowship program that launches in 2020 and will focus on enhancing the core skills needed to access and succeed in leadership roles in the nonprofit sector. The first fellows will be chosen from jurisdictions that have experienced high documented anti-trans violence.
- This is an urgent crisis of public safety and government officials must respond as such.
- HRC will be working on the ground with community leaders to pilot task forces to address violence in five to seven communities hit particularly hard by this epidemic.
- Legislation must be a part of this solution too. The fact that the Violence Against Women Act hasn’t been reauthorized is inexcusable. LGBTQ panic defenses should be outlawed in every state in this country. HRC will, of course, continue to push for comprehensive state and federal legal protections like the Equality Act to ensure transgender people have legal recourse when facing discrimination where they work, where they live and when seeking crucial social services. And several of other bills making their way legislatures, including bills decriminalizing sex work in New York and Washington, D.C., will be required to shift the reality for transgender people in the United States.
- The public needs to be educated in a much more robust way than it is today, rooted in the real stories of trans people of color.
- HRC will be ramping up efforts to create more conversation about this epidemic of violence through national media and our own platforms.
- HRC will also leverage our programs to more expansively engage parents and faith communities of color in this public education effort.
To learn more about HRC’s work on transgender justice, visit HRC.org/transgender.