The lack of respect for transgender Americans continues to play out in the ominous rise of deaths which in 2018 reached 26 due to fatal violence. And given the majority of those victims being Black and the lack of critique or concern emanating from Black leaders, religious or political, one could conclude that our own community continues to be complicit in these horrendous murders.
Most victims were killed by acquaintances or partners – but some met their demise at the hands of total strangers. Some of the perpetrators have been arrested and charged but many remain on the loose, free to attack more transgender simply because they’re so “different” from the norm.
Here in the greater Washington area, recent murders have shed a much-needed spotlight on the challenges facing transgender citizens, many of whom, due to bias and prejudice, remain homeless, unemployed, stuck in poverty and often forced to survive by becoming sex workers.
Some organizations, including the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Human Rights Campaign, point to the environment promoted by the current Administration as a leading cause of the spike in violent acts aimed at transgender men and women. Without question, violence disproportionately affected transgender women of color, rendered far more vulnerable than other segments of the nation’s population due to the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
But we can become involved at the local and national levels in order to demand easier pathways for our transgender brothers and sisters to enjoy life in America – if for no other reason than because they, too, as the poet Langston Hughes expressed in his seminal piece, “I, Too,” which called for equality for his people.
Efforts can no longer be limited to just one day of recognition like the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. We need public education, policy change and grassroots initiatives within our communities to address the complex causes of anti-trans violence while also ensuring victims that they can count on our support.
I remember learning a song as a child that said, “I’m proud to be me, but I also see you’re just as proud to be you.” Was that just a song or do we really mean it?