Tomorrow is Trans Day of Remembrance, “an annual observance on November 20 that honours the memory of the trans lives lost to acts of transphobia and discrimination”.
It’s an international event. One headline summed up gruesome international figures: “Murdered, Suffocated And Burned Alive: 350 Transgender People Killed In 2020”.
In the United States, according to the Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading LGBTQ+ lobby groups, in 2019, at least 25 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed. And so far in 2020, at least 36 have died. The great majority of them were “Black and Latinx transgender women”, according to the HRC. “This year is on track to be the deadliest for trans Americans,” says NBC News.
One person asked Kamala Harris at a rally last year: ““How do we get those men to stop killing us? How do we get those men to stop killing trans women of color? We are hunted. Systematically hunted. How can they do that?”
The incoming Biden Administration appears to be taking this issue seriously. Before the election his campaign accused Trump and Pence of fanning “the flames of transphobia in our nation while refusing to acknowledge the epidemic of violence”.
Back in October, Biden declared that violence against transgender and gender-nonconforming people was an “epidemic that needs national leadership”. Kamala Harris also promised to end an epidemic of violence against trans women of colour, saying there must be “serious consequence and accountability”.
Biden promised two things: really believing in the “humanity and dignity of transgender people” and “a President who actually recognizes it as fact”.
No one could object to acknowledging the humanity and dignity of transgender people. They should have the same rights and obligations as everyone in the US and elsewhere. But is it a fact?
No, it’s not. It’s clever fake news from the Ministry of LGBTQ+ Truth.
First of all, while all of these deaths are multi-facetted tragedies, describing them as an epidemic is a brazen exaggeration. In 2015, the number of killings recorded by the HRC was 21; in 2016, 21; in 2017, 25; in 2018, 22. About 248,000 Americans have died this year of Covid-19 so far. That, Sir, is an epidemic. It’s ludicrous, almost obscene, to use this word in a transgender misinformation campaign.
Second, the statistics are very rubbery. The HRC diligently combs through media reports across the country to compile its list of murdered transgender people. The National Center for Transgender Equality has slightly different figures. The FBI’s figures are hard to square with either of them. According to its “2019 Hate Crime Statistics”, only 51 people were victims of hate crime murders. Of all 7,103 hate crimes, 2.7% of the victims were targeted because of the offenders’ gender identity bias. This implies only one transgender death. This is not the case, but it shows how unreliable the statistics are.
Transgender hate crimes are particularly difficult for statisticians. Some victims’ deaths may go unreported; others may be missed because they are not identified as transgender in the media. Sometimes the police or family members do not acknowledge their gender identity.
Writing at Quillette last year, Wilfred Reilly, an African-American political scientist, said “The truth is there is no epidemic of transgender murders”.
He looked carefully at the meagre data on transgender murders and concluded that the concern is largely media hype.
In fact, the transgender murder rate is far lower than the murder rates for African Americans, poor Americans of all races, and men in general. Besides, most murders of trans persons are part of same-race domestic or personal disputes, not hate crimes.
He compares the murder rates for African-Americans, Hispanics and whites: “the black murder rate… is roughly six times the Caucasian rate and almost 13 times the allegedly “epidemic” transgender murder rate.”
Nor is it true that most transgender murders are motivated by hate. Chad Felix Greene, a gay conservative fact-checker, crunched the number for transgender killings in 2019 in an article in The Federalist. He reviewed the HRC data and found that the two largest causes were domestic violence or prostitution. (It is true that in about 30 percent of the reported incidents, the motivation was unknown, but hatred is unlikely to be the motivation in all 30 percent.)
He concluded: “After reviewing the 118 cases with all available information, four appear to have been directly anti-trans-motivated.” That is four in five years – roughly one a year. Does one hate crime a year constitute an epidemic? Do the words “systematically hunted” make any sense at all?
Reilly summarises the situation as follows:
The recorded transgender murder rate is 1/3 or less of the overall murder rate for all American citizens and legal residents. Further, when such murders do occur, few are motivated by hatred and roughly 80 percent are same-race killings. These statements are not “arguments” or “allegations” but simply declarations of factual truth.
The Trans Day of Remembrance was inspired by the death of a popular African-American transgender woman named Rita Hester in 1998. She was found stabbed to death in her Boston apartment. A candlelight vigil in her honour became a national and then an international event. But her killers were never found and their motivation is unknown. She had worked as a prostitute and not everyone in the trans community regarded her brutal murder as a hate crime.
It’s important to remember the sad lives of transgender people. But they are more likely to be sad because they are psychologically troubled and live turbulent lives rather than because they are victims of hate crimes. Joe Biden should find something better to do with his time than curry favour with the trans lobby by repeating its lies.