At vigils across the country, members of the LGBT community gathered Friday to pay tribute to transgender people who have been killed because of their gender identity.
Transgender Day of Remembrance, which occurs annually on Nov. 20, was first celebrated to remember Rita Hester, a transgender African-American woman who was murdered in November 1998. The somber occasion aims to bring attention to the continued hatred and violence endured by the trans community.
At least 21 transgender men and women – 19 of them people of color – have been killed so far this year, making 2015 the most lethal year on record for gender-nonconforming people, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). A new report by the group highlights how the danger of discrimination, harassment and violence “increase exponentially” for trans women of color, who also face racism and sexism.
According to HRC, more transgender people were killed in the first six months of this year than in all of 2014, when at least 13 people were murdered. Nineteen were killed in the previous year. Some died from gunshots, burning, strangulation or beating — while many other killings have gone unsolved.
One common trend in the deaths of transgender women, according to the report, is the frequency with which police and media misgender trans victims.
“Even in many of the known cases, local media reports misgendered the victims and used their birth names. [The media] also further stigmatized some of these women by highlighting arrest records and using mugshots instead of personal photo,” the report reads.
Kylar Broadus, executive director of the Trans People of Color Coalition, said in the report that misgendering the victims makes it “even more difficult for advocates to collect reliable data.”
The HRC report also shines a spotlight on the eroding trust between the LGBT community and law enforcement, and the lack of local and federal legislation to protect the civil rights of transgender people.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, there have been 22 homicides between Nov. 20, 2014, and the same date in 2015, compared with 12 during the previous year.
Still, there has been some progress on transgender issues. The newly established House LGBT Equality Caucus – whose chairman, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), gained widespread recognition for a viral Twitter post in support of his transgender granddaughter – held a forum Tuesday to address violence against transgender people. The caucus plans to propose legislation to improve conditions for transgender people at the federal level.