November 20th marks the annual day of memorial for persons killed due to transphobic violence.
TDOR.info maintains an international list of known victims whose murders are believed to be the result of transphobic prejudice and hatred. The list doesn’t tabulate numbers for suicide, non-fatal violence or domestic violence and is restricted by procedural differences between territories, as many jurisdictions to not record gender identity or circumstances that indicate a hate-crime. Those commemorated for this year total 81 in number.
This post will discuss violence against Trans* people in general and not just those assaults resulting in the loss of life.
The point of importance, is the aforementioned procedural difference between territories. In many countries, hate-crime legislation is lacking or nonexistent. Without sufficient legislation, procedures cannot be put in place to record and appropriately categorise hate-crimes. If this data were collected, it could be used to develop strategies to combat hate-crimes more effectively, secure more appropriate sentencing and provide support to vulnerable victims.
The problem is in truth, somewhat cyclical. Many hate-crimes go unreported or are reported without providing full details, often due to privacy concerns and fear, among other causes. In fact, “according to the EU FRA survey, 80% of cases of homophobic and transphobic violence or harassment are not reported to the police, often because of fear of further victimization due to institutionalized homophobia and transphobia.”(1)
This under-reporting, while understandable (and in some countries, utterly unavoidable at present), unfortunately also serves to undermine calls for more effective legislation, training and procedures.
It is for this reason, that much of the information we have on hate-crimes and in this case, transphobic crime, is derived from studies and surveys carried out by organisations like Amnesty as well as healthcare institutions and researchers. An analysis this information, entitled “Social and Medical Advocacy With Transgender People and Loved Ones: Recommendations for BC Clinicians” provides the following findings:
Like non-transgender people, transgender people may be abused by a family member, partner, acquaintance, person in position of power (teacher, law enforcement personnel, health professional), or stranger. One American study of transgender adults found that approximately 50% of respondents were survivors of violence or abuse,(28) and another found that 25% of transgender respondents had experienced hate-motivated physical/sexual assault or attempted assault. (29) In a recent survey of transgender people and loved ones in BC (n=179), 26% reported needing anti-violence services at some point in their life. In examining reports of hate crimes against transgender people, researchers found that 98% of all “transgender” violence was perpetrated specifically against people in the male to-female spectrum; (30) of the 38 murders of transgender people reported internationally in 2003, 70% were women of colour. (31)
Women, be they cisgender or transgender, are the victims of the majority of domestic and sexual violence within our societies. For transgender women, they may be turned out of refuges and even support groups, on the basis of their biological sex and prejudicial assumptions about their surgical status or intentions within the support group or safehouse.
Transgender women of colour in particular, face a heightened risk, as stressed repeatedly by advocate and actress Laverne Cox, who has been praised for bringing the issue into broader public awareness.
As with cisgender men, transgender men can also be victims of hate-crime, domestic abuse and sexual violence, but are less likely to encounter them (this does not mean that such cases should be ignored or considered entirely negligible, but that they should be considered in due proportion). For transgender men, this is partially due to their increased likelihood of attaining “passing privilege” with time. This is the privilege associated with retaining some privacy over one’s Trans* status and is more commonly bestowed upon transgender men due to the effects of testosterone.
We can learn a lot about the oppression faced by Trans* people from the statistics on violence and hate-crime. It is important to understand this oppression and the very real physical threat that it represents, if we are to properly appreciate Trans* issues in context.
Without acknowledging this danger, how are we to adequately appreciate the need for privacy? And without appreciating this need, how are we to fully understand the necessity for legislation pertaining to amended identification (passports, birth certificates etc.), education documentation, even amending details with financial institutions and government departments, for reasons of employment, further education and safe access to other opportunities, services and amenities?
Within these statistics, we can also see male privilege at work. Male privilege, the preferential treatment of men in society, is not the fault of any individual man, cisgender or Trans*, but it should be recognised. If it is not, then we cannot correct it. Furthermore, if those who experience this preferential treatment do not recognise it, they run the risk of erroneously assuming that it is the universal experience.
How then, are persons benefiting from male privilege, whatever other disenfranchisements they may face, to fully appreciate the need for action on issues such as street harassment (to name just one issue) and the context of potential violence in which such things happen?
Equally, persons with white privilege are unable to experience the world, including its prejudices, as it is experienced by persons of colour. Once again, within these statistics alone, we see white privilege. To run just one example where such a privilege might provide a somewhat better outcome for a transgender person, white privilege may secure a higher income, providing access to safer housing and in some countries, greater access to medical treatment. This before we consider situations such as that created by stop and frisk policies or take into account the benefits that might be accumulated over several generations of such privilege.
In short, if we don’t appreciate the issues facing others, we can’t appreciate the differences between the world as they navigate it and as we ourselves navigate it. This applies we have white privilege, cis privilege, male privilege, middle class privilege, straight privilege, able-bodied privilege, mental health privilege and so on.
Other relevant statistics include the following(2):
- Transgender people experience double the rate of unemployment experienced by the general population, “with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.”
- Ninety percent of transgender people reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination in the workplace
- “Respondents who had lost a job due to bias also experienced ruinous consequences such as four times the
rate of homelessness.”
- Twenty-two percent of respondents who interacted with police reported harassment by police, “with much higher rates reported by people of color.”
- Almost half of the respondents (46 percent) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
- Forty-one percent of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population, with
unemployment, bullying in school, low household income and sexual and physical associated with even higher rates
Transgender Day of Remembrance is not a platform for the issues. It’s just that, a day of remembrance. But the necessity for this day is a direct result of the issues. I hope, that we might all consider our privileges and not just our disenfranchisements, so that we may more fully understand the issues faced by others. And that by doing this, we may all find ourselves with a greater number allies, to whom we too provide support. I hope that together, we might continue to create changes which will eventually see the end of statistics such as these.
Related Post: A rough guide to some Trans* terminology
(2) Grant, Mottet & Tanis et. all, Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey