Since January of this year, at least 17 transgender people have been murdered – 15 of the 17 were people of color, and the vast majority identified as trans women. All but two were under 40 years old, and one was under 18.
Transgender women have a life expectancy of approximately 32 years.
For anyone who is not clear, someone is transgender when the biological sex they are assigned at birth does not align with their experience of their gender. I am cisgender, because I was born into a “female” body and I identify as a woman. Someone might be transgender if they are born into a male body but identify as a woman – or they might identify with a gender outside of the binary, or they might identify with no gender at all.
We have recently seen a vast number of deaths of people of color, mostly at the hands of a corrupt system. In the past year, the US has debated the death of Michael Brown, the arrest and likely suicide of Sandra Bland, and the validity of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, among other things. We have learned that race is still an incredibly divisive topic in this country, and that people either believe that systemic racism is alive and well or that it is a relic of the past.
Fifteen of the 17 transgender people who were murdered were people of color. That is an incredibly disproportionate number. Unfortunately, discrimination against transgender people is fairly common. It is legal in a lot of states, including Oklahoma.
The number of trans people of color who were murdered suggests a serious problem. Murder is always bad, no exceptions, but at some point we have to look at the data and accept that race does play a role in the intense hate that transgender people of color so often experience.
Transgender people of color experience the discrimination that comes with being transgender and the discrimination that comes with being a person of color. This intersection seems to create an incredibly volatile amount of hate, and people literally die because of it.
Masculinity is incredibly fragile, and rejecting masculinity can be dangerous. In the United States, male-bodied people are taught from early childhood that they have to be strong emotionally, physically and psychologically, and that boys who do not conform to this standard are less important, less valuable and ought to be the object of derision. They ought to “man up”.
The majority of these murdered people identified as transgender women, which means that while they were born into a male body, they did not experience “man-ness” as their gender, even as children. Because society sees these women as men who have rejected masculinity, their murders are incredibly violent and overtly hate-motivated. These women did not “man up” like society said that they should – so they were hated, and then murdered.
Regardless of how we feel, personally, about transgender identities, when we see that other humans are being murdered – often brutally – we have a duty, as human beings, to say that this is unacceptable.
Whether or not we accept the existence of modern systemic racism, whether or not we believe “black lives matter” is a racist movement – these humans deserve to live their lives without fear of violence and we ought to fight for them.
Papi Edwards, Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Yazmin Payne, Taja DeJesus, Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Kristina Reinwald, India Clarke, K.C. Haggard, Mya Hall, Mercedes Williamson, Amber Monroe, Shade Schuler, Kandis Capri, Elisha Walker, and Tamara Dominguez.
Those names represent seventeen human beings who had their lives cut short by hatred and intolerance and unspeakable violence. How many people have to die before we reach our tipping point? How many people have to lose their lives before we speak up for them, before we say “no more,” before we accept this is indicative of a much larger problem?
Please, speak for these people. Say their names. Tell their stories. Don’t let their deaths be in vain. By increasing visibility we can make a difference in the lives of trans people and people of color. We have to be willing to fight for them – because they should not always have to fight for themselves.
Black lives matter. Black trans lives matter. Say their names.