Raising voices for transgender lives

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Elie Wiesel

Even as a new generation of African Americans find their voice in the epic struggle to secure recognition and acceptance of the value of black lives; and who by divine-right, are entitled to the equal treatment and ethical consideration awarded others—members of a sub-culture within the Black community are being slaughtered and yet, barely a whisper of protest from their fellow Americans.

In August, famed transgender personality Laverne Cox lamented to the cast of Good Morning America, “We in the transgender community right now, are reeling. Your life should not be in danger simply for being who you are.” She affirmed with determination, “We need to make sure that trans lives matter.”

More and more Americans have added their voices to her’s as well as those in the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered and human rights communities in a growing effort to raise awareness of the plight of transgender individuals.

A large segment of the American media certainly deserves a share of criticism for what some have called an informal conspiracy of silence on this issue. Media in a number of local communities spread across the nation have remained silent as transgendered citizens are found murdered in their communities and the national media has offered limited coverage.

The Black Lives Matter movement not only found its voice on this issue, it has courageously aligned itself in solidarity with other organizations. They are raising their voices to bring attention to the dangerous increase in the number of murders of transgendered individuals in this country—most of them people of color.


In 2013, the National Coalition of Anti Violence reported that when compared to their non-transgender lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and queer peers, transgender people of color were six times more likely to experience physical violence from the police, 1½ times more likely to experience discrimination, 1½ times more likely to face sexual violence, and 1.8 times more likely to experience bias-based violence in homeless shelters.

Something is happening in America in relation to the increasing number and often ignored deaths of transgendered individuals in the nation and the uncomfortable silence that is accompanying it.

According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, in 2014, at least 13 transgender women were murdered in America. Sadly, the number of murders has accelerated. As of the end of August 2015, the agency reported that number has already reached 19 for the year—a 46 percent increase with a quarter of the year remaining.

Sadly, according to the report, “All but one of those identified were either Black or Latina”. According to limited reports their manners of death were gruesome—they were shot, burned, strangled or beaten. Today, many of the cases remain unresolved.


Transgendered women of color are among the most vulnerable in American Society. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National LGBTQ Task Force, “34 percent of Black and 28 percent of Latina/o transgender and gender non-conforming respondents lived in a household with an income of less than $10,000 a year.” Also according to the report, “Forty-one percent of Black and 27 percent of Latina/o transgender and gender non-conforming respondents had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. When they attempted to access shelters, 40 percent of Black respondents and 45 percent of Latina/o respondents were denied access altogether.”

Reports also indicate that Black transgendered people are at least “eight times as likely as members of the general U.S. population, and more than four times as likely as the general Black population to live in extreme poverty”. Similar numbers hold true for transgendered members of the Latin community.

Being forced to the fringes of society may help explain why so many of these individuals are such easy targets for violence—a quick assessment of these results show how they are afforded few options and offered minimal if any safe haven.

Many would be hard pressed to ignore the elephant in the room—gender bias that continues to bubble to the surface of the collective consciousness and test society’s faithfulness to ‘love thy neighbour’. There is no qualification.

Video: tiff.40

In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) revised the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to recognize that people who are transgender and gender non-conforming, should no longer be classified as having a mental disorder. Instead of disorder, the state of being “transgender” is now identified as gender dysphoria (the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex).

Despite the 2012 ruling by the APA, the National Coalition of Anti Violence reported that in 2013, 72% of the victims of LGBTQ motivated homicides were transgender women and 67 percent were transgender women of color.

The cries of transgendered victims of violence are comingled with the cries for all victims of violence and injustice—it is one voice.

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BVN Contributor: S.E. Williams
Feature photo: Pax Ahimsa Gethen/flickr