Building an Inclusive Society: How We Can Overcome Anti-Transgender Violence Together

August 1, 2019 | Focus Areas: Ending Gender Violence

On July 20th, Denali Berries Stuckey became the 12th transgender woman of color in the United States murdered due to anti-transgender violence this year.[1] In addition to all 12 murders being a clear indicator of intolerance towards transgendered individuals, all 12 murders were also women of color.[2]

In 2018, at least 26 transgender individuals were killed in the United States,[3] and 41% of transgender people report having attempted suicide throughout the course of their lifetime compared to an estimated 1.6% of the general American population.[4] These statistics are a further illustration of the bigotry against a community of individuals who deserve acceptance and respect.

Their memory serves as a reminder of the discrimination, violence, and marginalization of the transgender community. To foster an inclusive society, the Human Rights Campaign advocates to end violence and discrimination against the transgender community by addressing three core issues:

  1. the dehumanization and anti-trans stigma,
  2. the denial of opportunities that prevent full participation in society, and
  3. increased risk factors of poverty, health disparities, and physical and sexual violence.[5]

Solution #1: Eliminate the anti-trans stigma

The transgender community needs a supportive environment and safe access to effective health resources. Research suggests that positive family support is associated with higher levels of self-esteem.[6] In contrast, low levels of family support increase the risk of trans individuals experiencing homelessness.[7] One in twelve transgender youth will be kicked out of their family home; increasing their risk of experiencing higher rates of depression, anxiety, HIV, substance abuse, and attempted suicide.[8]

A study funded by RTI assessed the evidence of violence and victimization in LGBTQ+ communities and found that transgender individuals who experience victimization from a family member are twice as likely to attempt suicide and contract HIV.[9] Additionally, 45% of transgender students that experience hostility during high school are four times more likely to attempt suicide.[10]

The transgender community encompasses just that: our community. They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, colleagues, friends, and mentors. The transgender community represents all racial, ethnic, and faith backgrounds. Working to eliminate the anti-trans stigma builds a pathway to remedy disparities, invite visibility and creates an equal chance to succeed.

Solution #2: Create opportunities for full participation in society

In 2018, 21 anti-transgender bills were introduced by 10 states to keep transgender people from accessing public facilities, specifically restrooms.[11] As a result, 66% of trans youth avoid using the restroom at school altogether,[12] and 17% of transgender students will drop out of school because of the mistreatment they face.[13] Not only do these legislative efforts attack gender-expansive individuals but it denies our youth the opportunity to participate in an inclusive education system.

Fortunately, North Carolina’s infamous Public Facilities & Security Act, or “HB2”, has recently been overturned. Opponents of the bill described it as the most anti-LGBT+ legislation in the United States.[14] Transgender people may now safely and legally use public facilities that match their true identity in North Carolina. Access to all public facilities, especially those in school, allows transgender people the opportunity to participate in society with comfort and safety.

Solution #3: Decrease the risk factors for poverty, health disparities, and physical and sexual violence.

Exclusion from relationships, setbacks in education, and employment discrimination can lead to poor socio-economic stability in transgender individuals. Research has demonstrated that 15% of the transgender population earns less than $10,000 in annual household income.[15] In the 2015 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 694 transgender respondents—10.8% of the overall survey—reported having participated in sex work and 135 NTDS respondents (an additional 2.3%) indicated that they had traded sex for rent or a place to stay.

Criminalizing laws and policies towards transactional sex compromises access to justice and police protection, sending a message that such violence is not only acceptable but socially desirable.[16] Those conducting sex work are often hesitant to report violent incidents to the police for fear of police retribution or of being prosecuted for engaging in sex work. Statistics reveal that 86% of trans people participating in sex work report mistreatment from police officers.[17] Ten of the 26 known victims in 2018 were believed to have died conducting sex work.[18]

Grieving the tragic loss of victims like Denali Berries Stuckey is not enough. Understanding violence against the transgender community is key to designing appropriate programmatic responses and rebuilding the community. Consistent advocacy, sensitization workshops, and equal access to health facilities can begin to break down the barriers our trans brothers and sisters face. The transgender community is long overdue the care, justice, and empowerment they deserve. It is a human right to live an independent life — a life that is fearless, free from bigotry and where we are accepted for who we are.

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. No derivatives, no commercial use. See guidelines here: broadlygenderphotos.vice.com/guidelines

[1] CNN. (2019). Denali Berries Stuckey

[2] Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2019.

[3] Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Dismantling a Culture of Violence: Understanding Anti-Transgender Violence and Ending the Crisis.

[4] National Center for Transgender Equality. (2011). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

[5] Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Dismantling a Culture of Violence: Understanding Anti-Transgender Violence and Ending the Crisis.

[6] Frontiers in Psychology. (2018). The Impact of the Parental Support on Risk Factors in the Process of Gender Affirmation of Transgender and Gender Diverse People.

[7] Frontiers in Psychology. (2018). The Impact of the Parental Support on Risk Factors in the Process of Gender Affirmation of Transgender and Gender Diverse People.

[8] Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Dismantling a Culture of Violence: Understanding Anti-Transgender Violence and Ending the Crisis.

[9] RTI International. (2017). Violence and LGBTQ+ Communities: What Do We Know, and What Do We Need to Know?

[10] RTI International. (2017). Violence and LGBTQ+ Communities: What Do We Know, and What Do We Need to Know?

[11] RTI International. (2017). Violence and LGBTQ+ Communities: What Do We Know, and What Do We Need to Know?

[12] Human Rights Campaign. (2018). Gender-Expansive Youth Report.

[13] RTI International. (2017). Violence and LGBTQ+ Communities: What Do We Know, and What Do We Need to Know?

[14] PBS. (2016). How North Carolina signed a bill dubbed the most anti-LGBT law in the US.

[15] National Center for Transgender Equality. (2011). Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

[16] World Health Organization. (2013). Addressing Violence against Sex Workers.

[17] Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Dismantling a Culture of Violence: Understanding Anti-Transgender Violence and Ending the Crisis.

[18] Human Rights Campaign. (2019). Dismantling a Culture of Violence: Understanding Anti-Transgender Violence and Ending the Crisis.