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HRC Report on Trans Deaths: We Must Dismantle Stigma

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In a year marked by a record number of violent deaths of transgender and gender-nonconforming people in the U.S., the Human Rights Campaign Foundation has released a report on those we’ve lost, the factors that contribute to such violence, and how to change the situation.

The report, titled “An Epidemic of Violence: Fatal Violence Against Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People in the United States in 2020,” was released Thursday by the HRC Foundation, the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign. This week is Transgender Awareness Week, and Friday is Transgender Day of Remembrance.

As of the report’s preparation, 36 trans and gender-nonconforming people had lost their lives to violence in the U.S. in 2020, the most recorded in a single year since HRC began tracking these deaths in 2013. That number has grown to 37 this week with the death of Miami entertainer Yuni Carey, who was stabbed to death Tuesday and whose partner has been charged with second-degree murder. The majority of victims have been Black and Latinx women.

And the total in any given year is likely much higher than that documented by activist organizations such as HRC and publications such as The Advocate, given that many trans victims are misgendered by police and media in their cities, or their deaths not reported at all.

“This year, we reached two grim milestones — the Human Rights Campaign has recorded the most deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people of any year since we began tracking this violence, and we have documented more than 200 total deaths. Every life that we have lost this year and every year had value and did not deserve to be cut short,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a press release announcing the report. “Divisive and dehumanizing rhetoric from anti-equality political leaders has contributed to the toxic mix of racism, sexism and transphobia that drives this horrific violence. It’s on all of us to fight for change at every level and take action to support trans and gender non-conforming people. We must work to dismantle the stigma that so many in the trans and gender non-conforming community face, and bring this violence to an end.”

“These victims, like all of us, were loving partners, parents, family members, friends and community members,” added Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative. “They worked, went to school and attended houses of worship. They were real people — people who did not deserve to have their lives taken from them. As we work to ensure that they are remembered with dignity in death, we will also continue to uplift the resilience and humanity of the entire transgender and non-binary community.”

“In life, each of the individuals memorialized in this report went to extraordinary lengths to live authentically,” the report’s introduction reads. “In death, we must honor their truth and bravery with action.”

The document points out societal factors that put trans people at risk of violence, such as employment discrimination and exclusion from health care, which often lead to poverty and homelessness. It notes that gun violence is often the means of death and that a majority of victims were killed by someone they knew.

HRC calls for antidiscrimination protections for trans people, amplifying their voices, decriminalizing sex work, ending the practice of misgendering, eliminating the “trans panic” defense in criminal trials, improving the collection of data on hate crimes, and stopping the overpolicing of Black people, something that often leads to police brutality.

The report is dedicated to Monica Roberts, a transgender activist and journalist who chronicled the lives and deaths of trans people until her own death from natural causes in October.

Find the full report at HRC.org.

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