Experts: Hateful rhetoric and fear lead to increased crime against transgender people

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Demonstrators protest while holding a large transgender pride flag as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in three cases over LGBTQ discrimination protections in Washington in 2019. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License picture

July 28 (UPI) — As transgender and non-binary Americans face increasing levels of reported violence, coupled with a slew of new anti-trans laws and policies, advocates say it’s more important than ever to expand trans rights in all facets of life.

The Human Rights Campaign, which compiles data based on community reports and news reports, says at least 21 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been killed this year. For the whole of 2021, there have been at least 57 deaths – compared to 44 in 2020 – making it the deadliest year on record.

As of 2013, 77% of victims of these crimes have been transgender women of color.

Tori Cooper, director of HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said transgender and non-binary communities are “disproportionately affected by deadly violence” compared to cisgender Americans. She attributes this to the fear many people have of those who are different from them, as well as hateful and harmful rhetoric in society.

“This horrific violence is fueled by racism, toxic masculinity, misogyny and transphobia,” she said in a statement posted on the HRC website.

Speaking to UPI, Cooper said the old adage that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” simply isn’t true.

“We can’t ignore that rhetoric is harmful,” she said, because it empowers people who want to do harm and didn’t feel empowered to do so before.

The HRC notes that it is difficult to compile accurate statistics regarding anti-trans crime, as such incidents are often underreported or unreported.

“In addition, a number of other barriers often contribute to the under-reporting of hate crimes, including mistrust between targeted communities and law enforcement and uncertainty about law enforcement responses. “, says the organization’s Epidemic of Violence 2021 report.

Caroline Medina, associate director of the LGBTQI+ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, commends the Biden administration for making efforts to improve data collection on transgender Americans, not just with respect to violence, but also health and economic indicators.

“The lack of good quality data on LGBTQI+ people, especially transgender people … is extremely important, and we need more investment at all levels,” she told UPI.

President Joe Biden, for example, signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in May 2021, which included a measure – the Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act – to devote resources to improving hate crime reporting. . The legislation is named after Heather Heyer, an anti-racism protester killed in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, and Khalid Jabara, a Lebanese immigrant killed in Oklahoma in 2016.

A report from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law in May 2021 found that transgender people are four times more likely to be victims of crime than cisgender people. With violent crimes, transgender people are 4.5 times more likely to be victims and transgender women are 2.5 times more likely to be the target of a hate crime than cisgender women. Transgender people are twice as likely to face property crime.

Meanwhile, half of all violent crimes went unreported to police, the institute determined.

“Research has shown that experiences of victimization are linked to poor well-being, including suicidal thoughts and attempts,” said Ilan H. Meyer, study author and Distinguished Senior Public Policy Fellow at the institute.

In addition to the hurtful rhetoric, Cooper said lawmakers’ efforts to marginalize and suppress the rights of transgender and non-binary Americans have also helped fuel the violence. She said that legislative bodies and school districts impose laws and policies limiting transgender people’s access to bathrooms, banning them from playing sports and censoring information about them in schools in order to “create this feeling of fear. “.

Earlier this year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered parents who provide transgender care to their children to be investigated for child abuse, prompting the closure of some transgender health programs in the state. Eighteen states have laws or rules that prohibit or restrict transgender competitors at sporting events. Even schools are implementing anti-trans policies, with some banning books on transgender issues and teachers from discussing the topic, and ending gender-affirming services.

Cooper described these efforts as being the product of the “noisy minority”.

“The opposition fights against the rights of transgender people because they don’t see us as human voters or worthy of protection,” she said. “They’re using fear to create this false narrative that trans people are out to hurt people, which isn’t true.”

And the very act of proposing policies — even if they are not adopted — contributes to subjecting transgender and gender non-conforming people to mental distress, Medina said, citing data from the Trevor Project which suggests that a majority of LGBTQI youth have said that discussing these issues has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Medina said tackling violence against transgender and gender non-conforming communities goes beyond simply stopping perpetrators, it involves a broader look at a variety of issues, including health care and economic factors. .

“You have to look at expanding transgender rights in a really comprehensive way,” she said.

Cooper echoed the call for protections for people at all levels, “leveling the playing field for transgender and non-binary people.”

She called for easier access for people to change their names and gender markers, better reporting of crimes, access to information about the LGBTQ community for school children, health care quality and equal access to jobs.

Increasing visibility and acceptance in mainstream society, Cooper said, will minimize fear and violence toward those who were previously seen as “different.”

“We really have to consider how important common sense is and how it should prevail in our decision-making processes,” she said.

“When we get rid of diversity, we are forced to see only ourselves and that is certainly not how I believe God created us.”

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