Violence Against Transgender Women: A Growing Crisis

Amid the parades, celebrations, and rainbow capitalism that make up Pride Month, it’s important to remember that we have a tremendous way to go before we achieve liberation for LGBTQ people. One especially shameful issue that must be discussed more is the violence against transgender people, particularly transgender women.

At least 26 transgender people were killed in the U.S. in 2019. There may also be many more victims who have not been identified due to misgendering and dead-naming by the police or media.

The available statistics on violence against transgender people are appalling. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, over half of respondents have experienced intimate partner violence, and 48 percent were “denied equal treatment, verbally harassed, and/or physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender.”

When transgender people are victims of violence, they often experience even more violence from law enforcement. According to a paper in the William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice, when transgender victims of domestic violence call the police, they end up being arrested or experiencing violence from the police.

When transgender people interact with the police, they are harassed and even assaulted. Transgender people are 3.7 times more likely than cisgender people to experience police violence, and trans people of color are 6 times more likely compared to white cisgender people to experience the same. Of transgender people who interacted with law enforcement who knew or thought they were trans, 7 percent were physically or sexually assaulted, and 20 percent were verbally harassed. Small wonder that 57 percent of respondents to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey would not feel comfortable calling the police if they needed help – transgender people aren’t even safe from figures who in theory are supposed to protect and serve.

Like many things, violence is an intersectional issue. Nearly three-quarters of fatal anti-LGBT hate crimes have been committed against transgender women and girls. The majority of transgender people killed in 2018, and all of the transgender people killed in 2019 so far have been black transgender women, and activists note that this is a national growing crisis.

With transgender women of color facing marginalization in so many aspects of their lives at the intersection of racism, misogyny, and transphobia, unable to obtain ID documents that match their gender identity, struggling to get jobs due to discrimination, and lacking legal protections, they are much more vulnerable to harassment and violence.

The violence against transgender women should be regarded as a primary issue for feminists today. We as a society need to advance a myriad of causes –⁠ trans rights, gender equality, racial and economic justice, gun control –⁠ to ensure that all women can live free from harm.

Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection. Credit: The Gender Spectrum Collection. Made available to media outlets via Creative Commons.

Ways to Combat Violence Against Transgender Women

Help Pass the Equality Act

  • Currently, there is no federal law that protects transgender people from discrimination. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Equality Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate based on gender identity. This would be a landmark civil rights success for transgender people. Contact your senators to urge them to vote “yes” on the Equality Act.

Better Gun Control

Support Transgender Organizations

Melissa Young is a writer and former copy editor from the San Francisco Bay Area who is passionate about social justice, feminism, and the Oxford comma. Her current work as a legal writer finds her drafting visa petitions that enable people to immigrate to the USA. She sustains herself by making music, drinking boba milk tea, and having existential conversations.

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