The United States recorded 2021 as the most fatal year for transgender people and those who are not gender-specific. According to a report, at least 50 people who were transgender or gender nonconforming died in this year. Report by LGBTQ advocacy organization the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—the highest number of deaths since the organization began recording fatal violence in 2013.
This report shows that trans and gender non-conforming deaths are not always reported and victims often are incorrectly gendered. (At least 24 of those listed in HRC’s report were initially misgendered by the media or police.)
Continue reading: The Trans Boy Who Had More Rights A Century Ago than Most Trans Children Today
Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the transgender justice initiative at the HRC Foundation, says HRC not only noticed a rise in fatal violence, but an “increase in violent acts, period.”
HRC reported fatalities in at most 19 US states and Puerto Rico in this year’s report. Cooper said that HRC noticed an increase in the South’s level of violence, especially in Texas, Florida, and Georgia. (Texas and Florida were two of three states—along with Pennsylvania—which recorded at least five deaths.)
HRC has recorded 256 cases of trans and gender-nonconforming victims in fatal violence since 2013. More than three quarters (75%) of the victims were under age 35, with one in ten being younger. It was also Black trans women were disproportionately the victims of fatal violence this year, as well as in years past—in the years since HRC has been keeping record, at least 84% of those killed were people of color, 85% were trans women and 66% were Black trans women.
Cooper believes that violence is a result of many different factors. She explains that systemic racism and transphobia can exacerbate poverty and have a direct impact on the lives and well-being of trans people. In the news media, as well as from conservative legislators, there has been an increase in anti-trans misinformation. In 2013, at least 130 bills was introduced to state legislatures. They targeted trans persons, such as the rights of trans youth to access the restroom, sports and medical care. A record-breaking 25 anti-LGBTQ bills were ultimately enacted into law, including 13 anti-trans laws in at least eight states, per HRC’s count.
“Words matter,” Coopers says, when asked about potential factors contributing to the violence. “Words become thoughts and thoughts become action.”
Cooper claims that federal legislation is needed urgently to protect transgender people. However, the bill is still stalled at the federal level. Cooper says Congress should pass the Equality Act. This would prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation when it comes to employment, housing public accommodations, education, programs funded by federal funds, or other areas. Cooper says that the Equality Act must be passed by Congress to address the issue of hate crimes and increase enforcement of existing hate crime laws.
“We need to make sure that folks who commit hate crimes are prosecuted accordingly,” she continues. “That means that they are understanding that they cannot inflict pain upon communities of people simply because they are different.”