Home' South Florida Gay News : SFGN 071515 Contents 26 // 7.15.2015 // SFGN.com //
Trans Murders Rise But So Does Awareness
Transwomen of color face higher rates of violence than other populations
In May, London Chanel’s roommate stabbed her multiple
times, killing her during a fight in an abandoned North
Chanel’s case became the eighth reported murder of a trans
woman of color this year, and her death supports a trend of
increasing media coverage of transgender murders. In the
past trans murders were often ignored or the victims were
misgendered. That was even more true for trans women
of color, one of the most vulnerable segments of the LGBT
But now more and more trans people are appearing
on television shows and in the news. This summer there
are at least three trans-centric reality shows including E!
network’s “I am Cait,” following Caitlyn Jenner’s transition;
ABC’s “Becoming Us,” following Ben Lehwald as his father
transitions; and TLC’s “I am Jazz,” following 14-year-old
transgender girl Jazz Jennings. This summer’s edition of Big
Brother also features its first transgender cast member Audrey
Advocate groups say that one positive
thing coming out of the rising number
of reported murders is that it’s raising
awareness of transgender issues.
“Finally trans deaths are being
reported as trans deaths in the media,”
said Osman Ahmed, the National
Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
research and education coordinator.
“Finally trans women and trans men
are being reported in the media as trans.
They’re not being misgendered.”
According to the NCAVP 80 percent
of anti-LGBT homicides in 2014 were
people of color and when looking at
those numbers closer it shows 55 of
homicide victims were transgender
women, and 50 percent of those were
transgender women of color.
The Anti-Violence Programs released a report in March
detailing the various LGBT homicides so far in 2015 and urged
the media to “respectfully and accurately identify victims of
violence with names and pronouns in line with their current
Ahmed said the reported deaths statistics though show a
positive trend. They’re a result of LGBT organizations and
trans communities all over the county encouraging allies to
use social media and other resources to advocate for trans
lives being reported.
Ahmed points to the death of Chanel as an example.
“When the report came out, the reporter had misgendered
London and called her a man,” he said. “Immediately we saw
community members, folks who knew and loved London
Chanel, commenting on that article.”
He said as a result, the reporter went back, checked the
facts, changed the story and used Chanel’s preferred gender
identity pronouns and name.
An important tool in creating that change to the story, he
said, and in changing the visibility and awareness of trans
people is social media and the media in general.
“Folks in the trans community are really using social media
to increase awareness around trans issues,” he said. “Media
recognition of trans folks like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner
go a long way for increasing visibility and representation of
The National Center for Transgender
Equality created the Stop Trans Murders
campaign to raise awareness and
pull attention towards the severity of
trans murders, pegging the hashtag
“We see the national spotlight needs
to be shown on the horrific violence to
black men and women and trans women
of color being killed as if they were not
even human,” said Kylar Broadus, the
transgender civil rights director at the
National LGBTQ Task Force.
The campaign also focuses on other
problems transgender people face like
job discrimination, harassment and
“Until those problems are fixed, trans
people of color, particularly transgender
women of color, can continue to be prey
on the streets,” he said.
Broadus said it’s our job as a community to stop that.
Ahmed said movements involving the hashtags
#TransLivesMatter and #BlackTransLivesMatter are other
ways of employing social media for real social issues.
“This is the first step in getting to the solution of the issue,”
he said. “It’s a wonderful way to raise awareness about a real
epidemic in the trans community which is the regular fatal
violence in the trans community.”
Jay Brown, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s
director of research and public education, said social media
is a helpful tool in increasing coverage, but the root of the
problem can only be solved with the help of public and private
“Social media coverage of these deaths helps boost visibility
of the problem as many times these crimes go un- or under-
reported,” he said.
The HRC, in partnership with the Trans People of Color
Collective, released an issue brief earlier this year, A National
Crisis: Anti-Transgender Violence to highlight the critical
issues facing the transgender community currently, which
include poverty, unemployment, housing discrimination and
barriers to healthcare.
“The report also issued several calls-to-action directed at
both public and private agencies,” Brown said.
Ahmed agreed, stating that visibility only goes so far.
“The real issues like low income ... won’t go away by
increasing visibility,” he said. “Real change will come from
policies that will speak to the issues that are affecting trans
communities such as lack of access to appropriate health care,
housing and shelter.”
Ahmed and Broadus also suggest that one of the best ways
to help the trans community is to speak up and get help for
transgender people who might be in a harmful situation.
“We need to be very aware of [the less harmful aggressions]
because they build up and can eventually lead to murder,”
Broadus said. “[Being transgender] impacts lives in so many
ways from extreme poverty to suicide to health risks. If
we impact transgender lives everybody’s quality of life is
According to the
NCAVP 80 percent of
in 2014 were
people of color
and when looking
at those numbers
closer it shows 55
of homicide victims
women, and 50
percent of those
women of color.
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