The violence against trans people continues to escalate, as 19 trans people have been murdered in 2019 already. According to the Human Rights Campaign, there have been 19 reported trans killings this year.
Most likely, the actual number of trans killings is higher. Law enforcement can make mistakes in identifying bodies, and crimes can also go unreported.
Visibility has also increased for trans people. Trans people are on our screens with actors like Laverne Cox and Indya Moore playing leading roles on television. Trans people are even entering government roles. Brianna Titone, the first trans state representative in Colorado, and Danica Roem, a trans representative in Virginia, are indicators of trans people gaining more attention and visibility in the public sphere.
However, violence against trans people and trans killings have also increased. This year follows the trend of violence against trans people escalating. The HRC reports that the number of trans killings have increased every year since 2016.
Mariah Moore, the program associate for the Transgender Law Center, told The New York Times, “We are the most afraid we’ve ever been. But we’re also stronger than we’ve ever been.”
Beverly Tillery, the executive director of the Anti-Violence Project, also spoke about the double-edged sword of visibility and trans killings. “The increased visibility is a signal for them that they need to double down in fighting back. We’re definitely seeing what we would call a backlash.”
Among the groups most vulnerable to violence, black, trans women continue to be targets of trans killings. Almost all the trans people killed this year have been black women. Increased threats of violence arise in intersections with race, poverty, homelessness, and sex work.
Furthermore, law enforcement isn’t necessarily a provider of safety. Johanoua Medina, 25, died in a hospital just hours after being released from ICE custody, as reported by the HRC.
The epidemic of trans deaths needs to be addressed in terms beyond visibility and awareness. The queer community needs to rally around and protect our most vulnerable members, as well as address material realities. We should demand better from the world and ourselves, and help trans people when they ask for it.