Violence Against The Transgender Community Is Sadly On The Rise In The U.S.
Over the weekend, Dee Whigham, a transgender woman of color and a nurse at Forrest Health in Mississippi, was found stabbed to death. On Monday, 20-year-old Dwanya Hickerson, a member of the U.S. Navy, was arrested and charged for her death. Whigham is, at the very least, the 15th transgender or gender nonconforming individual to be murdered in 2016 so far, after 2015 saw an unprecedented amount of violence toward the group, with at least 21 murders by November. For all the right-wing portrayals of transgender individuals as the dangerous ones, violence against the transgender community is the real problem.
The Anti-Violence Project’s 2016 report on violence against the LGBTQ community revealed a 20 percent increase in LGBTQ homicides from 2014, with transgender women, and transgender women of color in particular, the most targeted demographic. 2015 was a big year in terms of coverage of the demographic by the mainstream media in the wake of the suicide of transgender teenager Leelah Alcorn and the very public transition of Caitlyn Jenner. While being more widely accepted by progressives and the feminist movement gave the trans community a boost in terms of cultural awareness, support, and even legislative action, unfortunately, it also further exposed them to the wrath of violent extremists.
In the same way that portrayals of abortion as murder encourage violence toward providers, clinics, and women, portrayals of the transgender community as perverted and demonic render them targets as well.
Earlier this year, the state of North Carolina passed a law banning transgender people from using public bathrooms that don’t match the gender assigned to them at birth. Additionally, 10 states sued President Obama earlier this month for enforcing a federal civil rights law giving transgender students the right to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity at school. The flawed reasoning was that cisgender girls and women have to be protected from transgender women, cast by conservatives as monstrously perverted men.
The reality of the situation is that while there’s no shortage of evidence of harassment and abuse faced by trans folks in public spaces, there’s pretty much zero evidence of transgender people attacking or harassing cisgender people in public spaces. Harassment, violence, and sexual assault are more often than not committed by cisgender men, so it’s difficult to see the dangerous misrepresentation of transgender individuals as a move to protect women and not blatant transphobia when nothing is being done to deal with those who are actually committing violence.
Violence toward women remains a very real issue, but the solution isn’t to pit them against each other by casting cisgender women as the victims of transgender women.
Last November saw the creation of a House Transgender Equality Task Force, chaired by California Representative Mike Honda, which will look into “why transgender people suffer inequalities like more family rejection, harassment, poverty and homelessness than the general population” and propose policies to address this, according to Time. Given recent events, overturning discriminatory, transphobic laws would probably be the best starting point policy-wise. The demonization of trans individuals is only legitimized by these laws, which inspires violent responses rooted in twisted notions of “vigilante justice.”
Little else can be done for the betterment of the transgender community’s standards of living until they’re able to live their lives without fear of being killed in the streets.