The Roots of Anti-Trans Violence

New York

The history of the Stonewall uprising, the ballroom scene, and the extravagant Pride parades are just a few historical examples of why New York City has become an LGBTQ touchstone. But each year, New York state ranks among the highest in the country when it comes to fatal transphobic violence. Between 2017 and 2020, at least nine trans individuals were reported violently killed in New York state, making it one of top five states that are most hostile to trans people. It’s possible that more fatal transphobic violence went unreported.

The numbers contradict existing stereotypes wherein the South is discarded as hotbeds of conservatism. One could argue that the way New York has branded itself as progressive allows it to conceal the violence that is inflicted on marginalized communities like trans people.


Ages of the nine trans and nonbinary victims of fatal transphobic violence tracked in New York between 2017-2020, plotted from low to high on a stacked row chart.

With the exception of Mx. Bostick, 59, all of the known victims were between ages 27 and 35 at the time of their deaths.

Graph of those misgendered or deadnamed in initial reports
Between 2017-2020, law enforcement and/or local media misgendered at least six (67%) of the known victims of fatal transphobic violence in New York.
Victim Race in New York
In New York, seven (78%) of the reported victims of fatal transphobic violence were Black and two (22%) were Latinx. Layleen Cubilette-Polanco was AfroLatinx.
Victim Gender in New York
Out of the nine known New Yorkers who died by fatal transphobic violence between 2017-2020, seven (78%) were trans feminine, and one was trans masculine. Mx. Bostick’s gender still remains unclear due to a number of circumstances surrounding Bostick’s 2017 death.

Political Climate

New York’s reputation as a “liberal safe haven” often leads advocates and activists to ignore the prevalence of transphobic violence throughout the state. Even in the wake of numerous bills claiming to improve conditions for trans and nonbinary New Yorkers, the community has been regularly targeted both by civilians and law enforcement.

In 2017, NYPD continued to arrest sex workers even after pledging to instead target traffickers. In 2018, among a surge in loitering arrests that largely impacted undocumented immigrants, police targeted and arrested a 23-year-old trans woman for allegedly engaging in sex work.

Until its eventual repeal in 2021, New York’s Walking While Trans Ban disproportionately targeted and detained trans women of color for “loitering for the purpose of prostitution.”

In 2018, amid an ongoing push for sanctuary city status, 20,000 New York immigrants were identified for deportation. In 2020, as New Yorkers battled increasing financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, eligibility criteria for both stimulus checks and unemployment benefits excluded undocumented immigrants and many sex workers from collecting payments.

Violence by Law Enforcement: Layleen Cubilette-Polanco died from SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy) on June 7, 2019 while in solitary confinement at Rikers Island prison. Her epilepsy was well-documented, but the COs elected to place her in isolation regardless.

Nationally, twelve trans or nonbinary people were reported violently killed by law enforcement between 2017-2020.

Policing: Although New York City has committed to decreasing their police budget for the 2021 fiscal year, the new figure of approximately $10.2 billion still represents the second highest police budget per capita in the U.S. This figure also represents a marked increase when compared to the city’s police budget just five years prior.

During a summer of sustained Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, NYPD repeatedly demonstrated their hostility toward Black and TGNB people. Over the course of a few months, protestors filed over 700 complaints of brutal police violence; a mere two officers faced serious repercussions as a result of their behavior, demonstrating the department’s continued lack of accountability to their own egregious violence.