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Trans Murders Concern the American Medical Association; Calls For Action, Public Involvement and Education

CHICAGO—Twenty-five transgender lives were taken in 2019 as a result of violence against the trans community, particularly trans women of color, prompting the American Medical Association (AMA) to classify trans murders as an epidemic.

“We are the most afraid we’ve ever been,” said New Orleans resident Mariah Moore, a program associate for the Transgender Law Center, to the New York Times. “But we’re also stronger than we’ve ever been.”

According to a release by the AMA, the organization will “adopt a plan to help bring national attention to the epidemic of violence against the transgender community, especially the amplified physical dangers faced by transgender people of color.”

The AMA warns that the number of victims of transgender violence could be much higher.

“According to available tracking, fatal anti-transgender violence in the U.S. is on the rise and most victims were black transgender women,” said AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, M.D. “The number of victims could be even higher due to underreporting and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence.”

More than half of reported trans fatalities occurred during pride season, typically between May and July, according to the Anti-Violence Project (AVP).

“The increased visibility is a signal for them that they need to double down in fighting back,” said Beverly Tillery, Executive Director of AVP New York, about those looking to harm transgender people to the NYT. “We’re definitely seeing what we would call a backlash.”

Although trans women of color are most affected by anti-trans violence, on New Year’s Day, LGBTQ activist and Oklahoma trans man, Dustin Parker, was gunned down at 6:30 a.m., while providing free taxi rides for people to get home safely after celebrating, according to several reports. He was shot multiple times.


Transgender violence is gun violence

According to a recent study by Everytown, a gun control group, 74 percent of the nation’s transgender murders were due to gun violence since 2017.

“Transgender violence is a gun violence issue,” said Sarah Burd-Sharps director of research at Everytown to ­New Now Next­, NNN). “There’s little research on guns and transgender communities. So, we really wanted to raise awareness of this issue and of hate crimes motivated by a victim’s gender identity and of the role that guns play.”

According to the same study that tracked the on-record transgender homicides from 2017 on, 82 percent of trans gun victims were black trans women.

“… There seems to be a pattern and a relationship between states with very lax gun laws and levels of gun homicide, gun suicide, and also trans homicides, Burd-Sharps told NNN.”

Everytown unveiled the correlation between trans homicides and geographic gun violence. According to the report, Texas and Florida showed the highest number of trans murders over the last three years. Likewise, Florida and Texas neared the top of the list for overall gun violence as well.


AMA steps up

The AMA has adopted a policy to directly address the epidemic through a myriad of ways, such as:

  • Forming partnerships with other medical organizations and stakeholders to educate members of the public, legislatures and law enforcement using verified data on hate crimes against transgender individuals and highlight the disproportionate number fatal attacks on black transgender women;
  • Advocate for consistent collection and reporting of data on hate crimes across all levels of law enforcement that includes demographic information on a victim’s birth sex and gender identity;
  • Advocate for a central law enforcement database to collect data on reported hate crimes that correctly identifies a victim’s birth sex and gender identity;
  • Advocate for stronger law enforcement policies regarding interactions with transgender individuals in order to prevent bias and mistreatment and increase community trust; Advocate for local, state, and federal efforts that will increase access to mental health treatment and address the health disparities that LGBTQ individuals experience.


Fatal anti-transgender violence in the U.S.

Nearing the end of 2019, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released its report on the epidemic, A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in the United States in 2019 that also yielded disturbing results.

“Transgender women of color are living in crisis, especially Black transgender women,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a release published by  The Rainbow Times. “While the details of the cases documented in this report differ, the toxic intersection of racism, sexism, transphobia and easy access to guns conspire to deny so many members of the transgender and gender non-conforming community access to housing, employment, and other necessities to survive and thrive. Every one of these lives cut tragically short reinforces the urgent need for action on all fronts to end this epidemic—from lawmakers and law enforcement to the media and our communities.”

Since January 2013, HRC has documented more than 150 transgender and gender non-conforming people who were victims of fatal violence; at least 127 were transgender and gender non-conforming people of color.

“Nearly nine in every 10 victims were transgender women and 58 percent of all domestic deaths occurred in the U.S. South,” noted the HRC report. “These disturbing numbers likely underreport deadly violence targeting transgender and gender non-conforming people, who may not be properly identified as transgender or gender non-conforming.”

The report also profiles two other cases of transgender women, Johana ‘Joa’ Medina and Layleen Polanco, whose deaths remain under investigation. The HRC asserts that their deaths were likely impacted and fostered by hate, indifference, and dehumanization.

“Medina, 25, died at a hospital in El Paso, Texas, just hours after being released from ICE custody,” the release added. According to Diversidad Sin Fronteras, “she suffered severe health complications that went untreated while she was in detention.”

HRC reported that “her family filed a wrongful death and personal injury claim against ICE and the Department of Homeland Security. Polanco, 27, was found dead in solitary confinement at Rikers Island on June 7. Her family said authorities knew she had epilepsy and failed to provide her proper treatment despite her condition.”

The HRC report was announced shortly after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its 2018 hate crimes’ data, which found an alarming 34 percent increase in violent hate-based attacks on transgender people between 2017 and 2018, the organization said.