It is a commonly stated fact among those on the left that transgender people face a much higher risk of being murdered than the general population. It is frequently alleged that they are targets for hate crimes, because of their sexual orientation.
In response to the murder of Denali Berries Stuckey, a transgender woman, Democratic California Senator and presidential candidate Kamala Harris tweeted, “Denali Berries Stuckey is at least the 12th Black trans women killed this year. We cannot ignore this violence. Transgender people deserve to live openly without fear.” (RELATED: Would You Date A Transgender Person?)
Denali Berries Stuckey is at least the 12th Black trans women killed this year. We cannot ignore this violence. Transgender people deserve to live openly without fear.https://t.co/EMbM2TnyYH
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) July 24, 2019
Stuckey’s Murder also elicited a response from Massachusetts Democratic Senator and presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren, who said, “The murders of Black trans women in America are a crisis. We must call it out and fight back, until everyone is free to be who they are without fear. Say her name: Denali Berries Stuckey.”
The murders of Black trans women in America are a crisis. We must call it out and fight back, until everyone is free to be who they are without fear. Say her name: Denali Berries Stuckey. https://t.co/wXTAseFfio
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 23, 2019
But do we have a crisis of transgender murders in the United States? Is the murder rate of these individuals that much higher than the general population?
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, records and tracks the murders of transgender people and, per their numbers, 2018 saw 26 murders, 2017 saw 29, 2016 saw 23, and 2015 saw 21.
While the number of murders has been tracking very slightly up, it still remains relatively low.
To put that number in perspective, a 2016 Williams Institute study put the number of transgendered adults at 1.4 million, or roughly .6 percent of the adult population in the United States. In addition, per FBI numbers, in 2017 there were 17,284 murders in the U.S.
The FBI has tracked hate crimes, defined by them as a crime that is a “committed criminal offense which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias(es) against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” The breakdown of those numbers puts murders where the victim was a killed because of a “gender bias,” at .6 percent of hate crimes committed.
These numbers don’t exactly add up to an epidemic, especially considering the out-sized amount of attention this particular group receives.
Transgender individuals as a group allegedly face challenges that tend to bring an inherent level of risk. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) surveyed the experiences of 6,400 transgender adults and found that, “transgender people overall experience high levels of discrimination in every area of life, as well as high levels of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, negative interactions with police, incarceration, and violent victimization.”
The conditions that transgender people live in often force them into sex work and some believe that the criminalization of sex work only increases the problems that they face. “Many transgender people participate in the sex trade in order to earn income or as an alternative to relying on homeless shelters and food banks. The criminalizing and stigmatizing of sex work in the United States can worsen the discrimination and marginalization that transgender people already face in society,” the NTDS states.
The NTDS found that an astonishingly high number of transgender people participate in sex work, with 694 of the 6,400 respondents reporting that they participate in the sex trade. Regardless of what unfortunate circumstances drove these individuals into the sex trade, it is an inherently risky field of work, with 80 percent of street based sex workers reporting experiencing some form of threats or assault while working, furthermore, 60 percent report having problems with male clients becoming violent.
While these murders are horrific, as is every murder, the belief that transgender people are murdered at a higher rate than the rest of population seems to be false, especially given the the rate that they participate in the high risk field of sex work. The numbers put their murder rate squarely in the realm of the average for America.