Fear in the Shadows

Marginalizing the transgender community is making them increasingly susceptible to hate crimes.

I recently read an article in the New York Times headlined, “18 Transgender Killings This Year Raise Fears of an ‘Epidemic’.” The headline sounded ominous enough for me to delve deeper into the story. On one hand, 18 killings certainly didn’t seem like “epidemic” numbers, but on the other hand, there could be more to the story, and no group of persons deserves to be ignored or marginalized within our society.

In analyzing the available numbers, it is hard to make a case that the murder rate for the transgender community is higher than that of the overall murder rate. Transgender advocates would argue, however, that any such comparisons can be misleading, as law enforcement data shows that crimes committed against transgender people often go unreported, or are incomplete in key information, leaving those incidents ‘unidentified’ as possible transgender crimes.

The advocates may be right, as the killings of transgender people are increasing from year to year and are documented as often as possible, by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Another disturbing aspect of these killings, as reported by the New York Times, is that the murders are disproportionately against transgender women of color, adding a racial component.

Certain 2020 presidential hopefuls are also taking note, stating that more needs to be done to protect the transgender community, be it increasing awareness or strengthening hate crime laws. But would strengthening hate crime laws even work as a deterrence? We ramped-up the laws on drugs to wage a war on them, and all we ended up doing was putting a lot of people in jail, and little progress was made on reducing drug use.

I think maybe we need to focus on finding commonalities of the perpetrators of these heinous hate crimes and use the data for educational purposes and to better train law enforcement across the country. We also need to do better at treating everyone with the respect they deserve, for we are all unique but alike at the same time, and our commonalities should create bonds, not divisiveness.

Our job, individually, is to find common ground, promote civil discourse, acceptance, and knock down discrimination against anyone, including the transgender community, wherever and whenever we encounter it. It is the marginalization of and discrimination against transgender people that too often drive them to the fringes of society in the first place, and make them particularly susceptible to becoming victims of abuse and murder.

Since its founding in 1980, the HRC has been advocating and educating the country on LGBTQ issues and promoting LGBTQ inclusiveness, and isn’t that a cornerstone of America, being a place where persecuted peoples from around the world can count on acceptance and success if given the chance?

Anyone reviewing the HRC tracking on transgender killings from year to year should feel the utmost need to do more to stand up to bigotry and hatred in all forms and from any source.

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