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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Remembering Our Dead

Unquestionably, the most solemn day for transgender people in the U.S. is the Transgender Day of Remembrance which is commemorated every November 20, throughout the United State and worldwide. On this day, we memorialize the many transgender people who have lost their lives to hate-based violence. It has been estimated that one trans person per month on average is killed in the United States in a hate crime murder just for being transgender.

Most people I suppose have no idea that transgender people in the United States face obscenely elevated levels of violence compared to non-transgender Americans. The epidemic of school bullying against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students has received much needed attention lately. That’s great and helping our children should be a priority. But we also face higher rates of sexual assaults, domestic violence, assault by police and hate violence—attacks and frequently murder just because of who we are.

The recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey showed that 26 percent of trans people in our sample had faced physical attack at some point for being transgender and ten percent experienced sexual assault. In Washington, DC alone there have been 25 anti-transgender attacks, including two murders, reported to the police just since July, according to the DC Trans Coalition.

All this violence is a well-known, deeply felt and, too often, personally experienced reality for the transgender people in your life—your trans children, coworkers and neighbors.

Violence against trans people is such a public health and safety issue that it is finally getting attention from the federal government. This Wednesday, with a small group of transgender and LGBT anti-violence advocates, we briefed White House officials on strategies for addressing the problem.

Fortunately, there is much the federal government can do: count transgender people in crime and health surveys, implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act recommendations (making sure they apply to immigration detention as well), insure that federal anti-violence programs take transgender people into account, and consider trans people when addressing problems of violence against women, youth, people of color, homeless people and immigrants. We provided the administration with over twenty common sense policies we desperately need to have implemented.

This week too, NCTE released a model school district policy with our partners at the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to help schools better incorporate the increasing number of transgender students coming out in America’s schools. As a first-of-its-kind resource, we hope to better prepare schools to support trans students, end bullying and establish procedures that allow young trans people to grow up as safe, whole people..

Trans people have far too many murder victims to commemorate on this Day of Remembrance. There is some solace and hope to be had in seeing that every year, more and more good people who are not transgender are taking note of this crisis, attending Day of Remembrance events and pitching in to help end it.

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