After a six-month search concluded Nikki Kuhnhausen had been murdered, 2019 is now tied with the 2017 calendar year as among the deadliest year for transgender people in the United States. In Kuhnhausen’s case, the police believe she was killed by a man with whom she had been communicating via Snapchat, but only after he discovered she was transgender.
According to reports by the Human Rights Campaign, this recent murder joins a host of other violent cases tracked by transgender rights advocates. While the details are different in each case where the murder of a transgender person involves fatal violence, a few clear patterns have emerged. The first and most obvious pattern is that this kind of transphobic, fatal violence disproportionately affects trans women of color. A second, clear pattern is that trans people, due to systemic intersections between racism, sexism, transphobia, and unchecked access to guns, are part of a uniquely vulnerable community.
In November of this year, the Trans Murder Monitoring report released by Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide featured a total count of trans people murdered in the United States at 30. This number differs between varying reports due to a number of inaccuracies or conflicting information provided in these summaries. The Trans Murder Monitoring report, released every year since 2008, has recorded anti-trans murders worldwide, segmented by the countries in which each murder took place.
The report’s authors conclude what their data indicates is an obvious problem both here in the United States and elsewhere: “Stigma and discrimination against trans and gender-diverse people is real and profound around the world.”
Earlier this year, the American Medical Association called the increasing violent trend an “epidemic of violence against the transgender community, especially the amplified physical dangers faced by transgender people of color.”
AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, M.D. said in a statement, “According to available tracking, fatal, anti-transgender violence in the U.S. is on the rise, and most victims were black transgender women.” He continued, “The number of victims could be even higher due to underreporting, and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence.”
In a policy adopted earlier this year, the AMA plans to team up with other medical organizations and advocates to use verified data on hate crimes committed against trans people to educate the public and members of local, state, and national legislatures, as well as law enforcement, about the many ways the trans community remains vulnerable to violence and exploitation. In addition, the AMA will continue to advocate for stronger policies focused on how members of the law enforcement community interact with trans people to fight police mistreatment and anti-trans bias, in order to facilitate and increase trust in communities across America.