By a very rough estimate, since January I’ve counted 19 instances of hate crimes perpetrated against trans individuals resulting in death, worldwide. These are the lives we recall and commemorate each year on Nov. 20, the annual Trans Day of Remembrance. These are the lives that have been tragically snuffed out prematurely because of hate and fear and ignorance.
I’m confident that it’s never our intent to underestimate the effect that trans violence in general has upon its victims, but I rarely see references to nonfatal instances in the press much after a week from their occurrence has passed. Of course, losing one’s life is the ultimate consequence in hate related crime, but violence directed at trans persons is not only pervasive but goes mostly unreported. And, in most instances, attacks do not result in fatality. It could easily happen to someone you know…it could happen to you.
Maybe I’m a little sensitive after having had someone run through the parking lot at a Furthur concert screaming “that’s not a real woman…that’s a man,” but I suspect that recently enacted hate crime legislation will fall short in curtailing hate motivated violence. What is most needed is a paradigmatic shift in how we, as a society, frame and comprehend diversity and that doesn’t appear to be imminent. Until the day when transphobia has been all but exterminated, we must maintain vigilance. If we go through life unaware of potential dangers, we are more easily made prey. This isn’t to say that we need to give into the kind of fear these transphobes thrive on…just the opposite. Our refusal to give into their campaign of fear gives us power.
Our best chance at reducing and eventually, maybe, eliminating this needless and pathological bigotry is to expose these persons and their behaviors for what they really are. They need to be held up to the light of day, exposed as bigots with personal issues they have foisted upon the rest of the world. And, we need to be sure that everyone is watching.
Cited instances of trans violence have been reported all over the world, but most I’ve recorded happened in the United States. Of the nearly 20 instances I found covered by news agencies worldwide, 15 occurred in the U.S. This disproportion is most likely due to the fact that more transphobic crime goes unreported outside of this country. It’s more likely than not that at least three quarters of this kind of domestic hate crime doesn’t see the light of day… there’s no telling how much isn’t reported worldwide. Needless to say, it should give us pause.
Okay…let’s look at several of these domestic instances which have transpired over the past 10 months. All paint pictures colored buy ignorance, hate and fear. All were senseless and brutal. None are comprehensible. And, press coverage has been scant.
In January of this year, an Athens, Ga., trans teen was assaulted by a would-be rapist who kicked her repeatedly upon discovering, after pulling her pants down, that she was anatomically not what he had thought. And, in April, Colle Carpenter was attacked on the Cal State Long Beach campus, dragged into a bathroom where the assailant carved “it” on her chest with a knife. The perpetrator has not been found.
Washington, D.C. made the news three times. This past March, a transwoman was shot in the leg by an unknown assailant. In June, two transwomen were attacked with a pole. A suspect was arrested and charged with Assault with a Dangerous Weapon/Pole (Bias Related). In August, another transwoman was attacked in Dupont Cir., N.W. Even though I have found only three citations describing DC incidents, the report from this last attack states that there had been seven instances of violence against transpersons in northwest DC alone to date this year.
Another attack in June occurred in Seattle, Wash., where a trans woman was kicked in the neck and punched in the face by a violent transphobe. This same man had been arrested and convicted previously for hate related crime. Add to these incidents reported in Baltimore, Md., Gainesville, Fla., Alexandria, La., San Antonio, Texas…as well as in San Francisco, Calif. , Wilmington, N.C. and elsewhere. Add to that total the incalculable number of attacks that went unreported by the victims and/or unreported by the police and press. We have no way of knowing just how high that number really is!
Then there’s bullying…non violent but effective for inflicting harm upon its victims. In the wake of recent and tragic suicides, it must be apparent that violence…physical and/or psychological…directed towards people who are different…trans persons, for example…may very well be the trigger that pushes some individuals to take their lives.
As much as the tragedy of fatal attacks demands our attention on the Day of Remembrance, perhaps this year we can take a moment to commemorate and remember lives which may have not been taken, but which have ended, or which have been all but destroyed, by hate mongers. These bigots who have chosen to ruin others’ lives are out there and must be stopped. If it hasn’t been obvious before to the nation at large, it certainly is becoming so now….or should be!
Don’t let these haters hide in the shadows…expose them for who they are…express your outrage…and not just on the Day of Remembrance, but that’s a start! : :
— Comments and corrections can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact Robbi Cohn, email email@example.com.