Transgender Day of Remembrance: Reflecting on the numbers

This Sunday, Nov. 20, marks this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.  As we reflect here at the Task Force on the lives lost in the past year, we can’t help but think of all the violence brought to light in February with the publication of Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  Although we’ve been commemorating the Day of Remembrance for over a decade, thanks to this research, this is the first year we have numbers to describe what we’ve known anecdotally for so long.

Our ongoing advocacy at the Task Force for more data collection can sometimes seem like an abstract cause, but the Day of Remembrance reminds us that statistics represent real lives and all-too-real personal struggles. Injustice at Every Turn tells the story of 6,500 individuals’ experiences including many forms of violence.

Below are a few of the statistics on the violence transgender and gender non-conforming people experience as a result of their gender identity/expression:

• 1 in 4 has survived physical violence
• 1 in 10 has survived sexual violence
• 1 in 5 has experienced violence perpetrated by a spouse or partner, parent, or other family member.

The numbers are even more shocking among people of color:

• 15% of black and 12% of American Indian transgender and gender non-conforming people have been physically assaulted by the police
• Nearly 1 in 10 Latino/a transgender and gender non-conforming people has been sexually assaulted by the police

Because of pervasive violence and discrimination, 4 out of 10 transgender and gender non-conforming people have attempted suicide, which is a rate 20 times higher than the general population.

All of these numbers affirm the heartbreaking personal stories transgender and gender non-conforming people have shared over the years; now the data amplifies their voices and makes the case for action irrefutable. The Task Force is committed to advocating for solutions by demanding recognition that there IS a problem.

Further, it’s important to remember that violence perpetrated against transgender people does not begin or end with the single act. The violence is a symptom of the intersecting biases that can affect all aspects of life. Consider, for example, a doctor’s refusal to provide medical care after a violent attack. Consider issues of housing access that often leave people homeless and vulnerable to discrimination or the near universal harassment and discrimination in employment that can impact so much else.

Thankfully, 2011 has been a year of lifesaving policies at the state and local level. Trans-inclusive nondiscrimination laws have passed in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawai’i, and Nevada this year, bringing the total number to 16 states and the District of Columbia. Transgender people who were unemployed were more likely to be the victims of violence and those who have lost a job due to bias were more likely to attempt suicide, but now in many places there are new tools for us to ensure those outcomes don’t come to pass.

At the federal level, too, the administration is listening. This week, the White House convened a critical briefing by transgender advocates, including the Task Force, on the epidemic of violence facing transgender people. In the last year, the Department of Justice designated LGBT survivors as an “underserved population” for programs and grant funding and will begin collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity of victims served by their programs. Changes are continuing to happen at the Departments of Health and Human Services; Labor; Housing and Urban Development; and the Social Security Administration, among others, which all contribute to the well-being and economic stability of transgender people.

Leading up to the Day of Remembrance, even as we take this moment to reflect on those we’ve lost, we at the Task Force know that this very same data also shows the resilience of transgender and gender non-conforming people around the country. Even in the face of so much discrimination and violence, people continue to transition every day and pursue their goals, including the fight for transgender equality, which the Task Force is proud to be a part of.

Statement by Rea Carey, executive director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:

The Task Force family joins in the somber remembrance of all we have lost this year to anti-transgender hate violence. The U.S. clearly is not exempt from this global crisis. As our national study shows, discrimination is pervasive and severe toward transgender and gender non-conforming people. The alarming personal stories and stats show that transgender people face injustice everywhere and in many ways. They fear for their livelihood, their safety, their ability to feed their families and have a roof over their heads. This is simply unacceptable. We must continue working toward a culture that affirms the dignity and worth of all people. Until no more of our transgender friends and family are lost to senseless hate violence, we must not rest.

But for now we’d like to take a solemn moment on this day to remember those we have lost. You can find Transgender Day of Remembrance vigils and events here: