In the wake of the back-to-back murders of two Black transgender women in New Orleans, and the murder of at least seven transgender women of color in 2017, Transgender Law Center executive director Kris Hayashi issued the statement below. 2016 was the most violent year on record for transgender people, with 27 transgender people — almost all trans women of color — murdered that we know of. This year is on track to be deadlier.
This week marks a grim new moment in an ongoing crisis for transgender communities. In the past week, we learned of the loss of three Black trans women to murder in this country. This year, only two months into 2017, already at least seven transgender women of color have been murdered – six of whom were Black.
The scale of continued loss is not acceptable. It is not bearable. But as media outlets, policy makers, and all of us fail to address and uplift the loss of these women, it is at risk of becoming “normal.”
There is wall-to-wall coverage, rightly, when the administration takes action targeting transgender students or when there is a leak suggesting President Trump might sign off on a license to discriminate against LGBT communities. These actions don’t happen in a vacuum. They contribute to a deadlier society for transgender people, particularly Black transgender women. Yet when our community members die, particularly when they are women of color, they are often misgendered in media reports if their deaths are recorded at all. In coverage of policy debates and rising visibility for our community, these women who should be at the center are forgotten.
We urge reporters to talk not just about bathrooms, but about the real lives that are lost when transgender people, when Black people, when Native people aren’t valued and respected. Talk about Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, JoJo Striker, Jaquarrius Holland, Keke Collier, Chyna Gibson, and Ciara McElveen. As Mic reports in their commendable Unerased series, young Black trans women face staggering rates of violence and murder compared to the general population. The loss of these women is devastating for their families, for the many friends and people who loved them, and for transgender people as a community. Failing to mark the murders of Black transgender women while keeping a spotlight on which restrooms they used in life is an act of violence itself.
Transgender people are highly visible, and so must our deaths be.