Not Just Murder Victims: A Plea on Trans Day of Visibility

graphic by Sarah Sarwar

Today is Transgender Day of Visibility, a noble effort to add media attention to positive, affirming representations of transgender people, who often are recognized only upon our deaths in mass media.

This year, we already have reports of the homicide deaths of at least eight trans people in the United States. For the last three years, various mass media outlets have claimed each year as the “most deadliest year on record” for trans people.

A recent article by them, reporting on a newly-released report by GLAAD, has begun to address the problematic nature of “deadliest year” claims. Both the report and them’s article mention the unintended consequences of sensationalist reporting on trans homicide and call for more accurate, compassionate reporting. But they also repeat some of the same language about trans death, and seem to call for more (though, admittedly, different) media emphasis on trans murder rates.

Most media outlets take it as a foregone conclusion that trans people are facing an “epidemic” of homicide. But are we really? And more importantly, does this emphasis on homicide do more harm than good?

Autostraddle, like many other media outlets, keep running lists of trans murders every year. This seemingly important media strategy has been growing in prominence in recent years, though it has been happening in a consistent and dedicated way since the inaugural Transgender Day of Remembrance in 1999. This type of coverage attempts to make a kind of record of our lives because the State doesn’t keep accurate or affirming statistics; gives victims of violence some semblance of dignity since mainstream media so often mishandles our deaths; allows friends, family, and the community the ability to mourn; advocates for criminal justice investigation into murders that often remain unsolved; and, through keeping statistics, makes a political point.

Few dispute that transgender people, and trans women of color in particular, face heightened levels of violence compared to our cis peers. Some media pieces, like this New York Times article, give lip service to the fact that trans people experience a wide spectrum of institutional and interpersonal violence: “Advocates say the violence is inseparable from the social climate: that anti-transgender violence and anti-transgender laws — like so-called bathroom bills…” as well as other issues such as the dismantling of workplace protections “…are outgrowths of the same prejudice” that leads to murder. But the bulk of the article is about murder, as is most mainstream media coverage of trans people.

What is the impact of this overwhelming focus on murder? Are mainstream media outlets that only seem to report on us when we’ve passed, that sensationalize our deaths — without deep investigation into the nuances or the spectra of violence that trans people, and trans women, in particular, face — doing us a disservice? Is there a deeper, more accurate story to be told when we talk about violence against trans people?

Are trans people murdered at higher rates?

It has become conventional wisdom that trans people are murdered at higher rates than cis people. But like most conventional wisdom, it may not actually be true. Many other trans statistics have been debunked, like the oft-repeated “trans women have a life expectancy of 35” or “1 in 12 trans women will be murdered in her lifetime.” The only media outlets that seem to want to break the mainstream narrative about how precarious life is for trans women of color in the United States, unfortunately, are far-right, conservative, anti-LGBTQ and/or TERF sites. According to The Federalist, a terrible, far-right blog that you shouldn’t generally ever read at all:

“After researching the known 28 cases [in 2017], it becomes clear that these individuals are the victims of robberies, domestic violence, police use of lethal force, sex work, and drugs or random acts of violence rather than targeted anti-LGBT motivation. In fact, not a single case listed in 2017 can be directly linked to the victim’s gender identity. The most brutal murders were committed by partners or other people the victim knew personally. Others remain unsolved with no indication of a motive.”

While The Federalist obviously has an anti-trans axe to grind, they kind of have a point here. It’s very difficult to determine why people are murdered, and immediately claiming that any trans murder victim was murdered because of their trans identity is reductive and, honestly, essentializing. While I dispute the Federalist’s claim that “not a single case in 2017 can be directly linked to the victim’s gender identity,” it’s clear that we can’t say that all of the trans victims of murder were targeted because they were trans.

Even if you dispute this — even if all of the 28 reported trans people murdered last year were victims of anti-trans violence — would we still classify anti-trans murder an “epidemic?”

Because of misgendering, inaccurate census data, differences in how people define trans identity, and a host of other issues, even knowing how many trans people exist in the United States is difficult. The best estimates we have are about 0.6 to 3% of Americans, or between 1.4 and 9 million people, identify as transgender. The vast differences in estimates are representative of these kinds of statistics — how do you define “trans?” Some surveys group non-binary people with binary-identified trans people, some don’t. Some only count adults, while other surveys show that more young people identify as trans than ever before. The actual number is likely closer to the higher end because these types of surveys tend to under-report marginalized identities for obvious reasons. Because of the same demographic difficulty — especially the misgendering of murder victims by law enforcement — it’s impossible to know how many trans people were actually murdered in 2017, though there were 28 “reported cases.” But for the purposes of doing some data analysis, let’s use these numbers to find an estimate of a national trans murder rate.

The national murder rate is about 0.005%. In comparison, 28 trans people out of 1.4 million is 0.002% while 28 trans people out of 9 million is about 0.0003% — both well under the national murder rate.

Black people make up less than 15% of the U.S. population, but account for over 50% of all homicides. Likewise, black trans people — primarily black trans women — are vastly overrepresented among trans murder victims.

Of course, these numbers obfuscate the differences in homicide rates between marginalized groups. Black people make up less than 15% of the U.S. population, but account for over 50% of all homicides. Likewise, black trans people — primarily black trans women — are vastly overrepresented among trans murder victims.

So, the statistics, and our analysis, have to shift as we control more specifically for certain variables. According to Mic’s Unerased database, 75% of trans murder victims in the last 8 years were black women and femmes.

According to the Williams institute, about 16% of trans people in the US are black. I couldn’t find a source to determine conclusively how many black trans people in the U.S. are women. But whatever percentage of U.S. trans people are black women — and it’s somewhere under 16% — coupled with the fact that they make up 75% of trans murder victims is staggering.

That being said, black women in general face higher rates of violence and homicide than non-black women — the national homicide rate for women is about 0.002%, while for black women it’s more than double that. Black women also face higher rates of intimate partner violence — up to 35% higher than white women — and over half of black women murdered die at the hands of intimate partners. The statistics are similar — though, clearly, elevated — for black trans women.

What are we to make of this data? First, being more explicit, accurate, and intentional in our reporting and data collection is essential; there was data I simply could not find.

Second, it’s clear that transgender people, in general and as a whole, are not facing an epidemic of homicide. If there is an epidemic of trans murder — and again, according to the data, this is very difficult to confirm, and previous long-held “truths” about trans people have been debunked with better data collection — it is an epidemic that specifically targets black trans women.

But it’s very difficult to determine the motivation for a murder. Because of the impacts of racism, sexism, and transphobia, black trans women are subject to violence throughout our lives, on a spectrum from microinvalidations to homicide.

What is Violence?

It is incredibly important here to note that we need to expand our understanding of the term “violence.” Just because we aren’t, according to this data, technically facing an “epidemic” of homicides like the mainstream media has been claiming, doesn’t mean we don’t face disproportionate amounts of violence. It doesn’t mean that the people killed weren’t family and shouldn’t be remembered. They should be mourned. But if we are going to mourn our lost siblings, family and community members publicly, we need to do right by our community and contextualize their deaths with accuracy and intention.

Trans people, and trans women of color especially, do face an epidemic of violence, but murder is just the end of a spectrum that begins when we are very young and affects us throughout our entire lives.

Trans people, and trans women of color especially, do face an epidemic of violence, but murder is just the end of a spectrum that begins when we are very young and affects us throughout our entire lives. To simply focus on the end, on the final act of violence, does a disservice to the discrimination and marginalization — the violence — that trans people conclusively face at disproportionate rates.

We face institutional, interpersonal, and ideological violence every day of our lives. When we are children we are pressured to conform to mainstream gender roles, or face policing from our families and peers. Whether that leads to being kicked out of our homes, or being forced to conform to uncomfortable norms while remaining housed, that policing is violent.

In school, we face bullying from peers, school administration, and teachers. In my previous life as a high school teacher, I have witnessed a teacher tease a young man for wearing a jacket with a flower on it. I’ve heard principals tell students to “man up” when they reported bullying. In Oakland while I was teaching (at a different school), an agender student was literally set on fire by other students. All of this is violent.

If we are able to access housing, we can be evicted because we are trans. If we are forced out of schools or homes, we make our way on the streets. Just walking to the corner store we face aggressive, trans antagonistic catcalls. When strange men are attracted to, then clock us, they often take it as a personal affront and want revenge. “Watch out for dick and balls!” yelled one man recently, outside of the corner store I was entering to the men inside, apparently warning them to put a preemptive hold on any attraction they might have had toward me. I know multiple trans women in unstable housing situations who have slept in parks or on benches and were raped in the middle of the night. This is obviously violent.

We are fired from jobs for transitioning or don’t get jobs in the first place because we “don’t fit the culture” or “disrupt the team.” As such we are forced to engage in street economics such as sex work or drug sales, both of which have the potential to be incredibly violent. If, because we are often forced into street economics, we get caught up in the criminal justice system, we are often brutalized behind bars in horrifyingly violent ways.

If we attempt to access health care, we are mistreated, misgendered, and marginalized. Every time I went to the doctor last year, I was classified as an “MSM” and asked how many times — not whether — I had engaged in unprotected sex with men since my last visit (though I’d made it clear, every single time, that I am not a man, that I don’t have sex with men, and even if I did, it was always protected). This is violent.

When we try to find love, we face increased rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) including physical, verbal, and emotional abuse, financial violence, and stalking.

In the mainstream media, celebrities make jokes about our murders or our insanity, we are the butts of jokes on TV sitcoms and in board games, we are the “gotcha” moments of gritty movies, and we are constantly reminded on social media that we are completely misunderstood. This is violent.

The federal government does not want to protect us from job discrimination, does not want us to have public or in-school bathroom accessibility, and does not want doctors or nurses to be required to treat us in life-threatening circumstances. This is violent.

If we could have safe, discrimination-free access to housing, jobs, health care and/or education, if the government would validate that we have a right to exist in public, it would greatly reduce the violence that we face.

When the vast majority of news coverage about trans people is of our homicides, we often forget about all of the everyday violence that trans people face, which actually affects our quality of life much more. If we could have safe, discrimination-free access to housing, jobs, health care and/or education, if the government would validate that we have a right to exist in public, it would greatly reduce the violence that we face.

This is important because, when it comes to homicide, there isn’t much that supporters can do other than mourn. Murder is already illegal. But much of the everyday violence we experience as trans people occurs in a legal gray area. Laws that are not enforced, don’t exist, or in the current administration, are being rolled back, can be changed or expanded, and representatives that we elect can do much to address this. Interpersonal and ideological violence can shift as we advocate with our friends, family, and peers, as we donate to folks’ fundraisers and to organizations working with and for trans people, as we wield our privilege to support our trans family. But what can we do about murders other than be shocked into turbid lethargy? Is it even useful for cis supporters to read consistently updated reports of trans homicides?

Does this overemphasis on the most sensational aspect of violence that trans women of color face — and ignorance of the everyday violence and discrimination that we face — help? Or is it doing more harm than good?

Collateral Impact of Homicide Focus

Not only is the focus on homicide inaccurate, and obfuscates the quotidian violence trans people face, it also has a discernible negative social and psychological impact. When we constantly see headlines about trans homicide, when those statistics consistently float around about how inevitable our murders are, when the media makes it out to seem like there’s danger lurking around every corner, as every year keeps being more and more dangerous for trans women in America, it affects us and it affects the way cis people understand us.

One of the effects of the prevalence of this type of reporting is a sort of “inevitability numbness” that actually retards efforts to reduce violence against trans people.

For example: the Earth either is or isn’t dangerously close to a “sixth mass extinction,” based on human activity that contributes to climate change, and depending on who you ask, it may be too late to do anything about it. Why do some people care and some don’t? According to climate scientist Michael Mann, quoted in The Verge:

“[T]here is… a danger in overstating the science in a way that presents the problem as unsolvable, and feeds a sense of doom, inevitability, and hopelessness.”

In other words, when something appears inevitable, working to prevent it becomes less compelling than attempting to mitigate its effects, or denying it completely to save oneself the mental distress of comprehending it. When the only reporting we hear about trans people is that we are doomed to be brutally murdered, this inevitability numbness can take hold and actually work against creating the political will to actually do anything about it.

When we consistently hear that venturing into public will likely result in our deaths, many of us tend to limit our existence in the public sphere.

As Laverne Cox has so expertly made clear, much of the violence and discrimination we face is “about us existing in public space.” When we consistently hear that venturing into public will likely result in our deaths, many of us tend to limit our existence in the public sphere. This contributes to the silencing of our voices, the curtailing of our visibility, and contributes to our “other”ness and marginalization. Am I a homebody and an introvert because that’s just my personality, or is much of it related to a fear of existing in public, exacerbated by the media emphasis on how dangerous my existence is?

Another impact of this emphasis? It’s depressing.

Though homicide is not necessarily an epidemic for all trans people, suicide definitely is. Over 40% of trans people attempt suicide at some point in their lives — 10 to 20 times the rate of the general population. Though mental illnesses, particularly depression, are elevated among trans people, the discrimination we face is much more directly correlated with suicidality. According to the Williams Institute report, “mental health factors and experiences of harassment, discrimination, violence and rejection may interact to produce a marked vulnerability to suicidal behavior in transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.”

The report goes on to note that trans people of color, people without jobs or on disability, with lower educational attainment, and with low incomes all had elevated suicide attempt rates. Given that trans people face persistent discrimination in all of these areas, and have a harder time accessing mental health care, on top of the anti-trans violence and discrimination that I mentioned earlier, this makes perfect sense.

Further elucidating this point is this study, which tracked a few dozen very young (ages 3 to 12) trans youth who were mostly white, wealthy, had family and community support, had not yet reached puberty, and existed in the safe, supportive bubbles of families that affirmed their identities, and have lived without the struggles of navigating institutions, housing, work, or other factors that affect older or less-supported trans people:

“Socially transitioned transgender children who are supported in their gender identity have developmentally normative levels of depression and only minimal elevations in anxiety, suggesting that psychopathology is not inevitable within this group.”

The implication is clear: without anti-trans institutional and interpersonal discrimination, we aren’t more depressed than cis people. Discrimination is killing us, but not just via homicide — via suicide. If there’s any epidemic affecting trans people’s lives — and in which we can actually do something — it’s the trans suicide epidemic.

Discrimination is killing us, but not just via homicide — via suicide.

I personally know a handful of trans people who have attempted or successfully completed suicide, at least three people just in the Bay Area so far in 2018. They won’t make the annual roundups of murder victims, but their deaths were arguably more preventable. Almost every trans person I know has at least contemplated the idea of suicide. I spent time in a psych ward in 2016 after a (thankfully unsuccessful) suicide attempt. In every single instance, the prevalence of discrimination in our lives, coupled with the seeming inevitability of this discrimination, was a primary factor leading to the hopelessness that preceded the attempts.

How Do We Shift the Narrative?

Whether transantagonistic homicide is an epidemic or not, the over-emphasis on it when discussing violence against trans people is clearly not doing us any favors. So what can we do? How do we shift the narrative? Remembering and mourning our dead is essential; Trans Day Of Remembrance is not necessarily the issue.

On this Trans Day of Visibility, how do we acknowledge that black trans women face disproportionate violence at all levels of society, including when compared to other trans people? How do we square the idea that there isn’t necessarily a trans murder epidemic, but there is a trans suicide epidemic? How do we recognize and celebrate the lives of trans people who have passed without sensationalizing their deaths and thus traumatizing those of us who remain? How do we resist “inevitability numbness?”

First, we can be more accurate in our reporting. We need to be clear that black women are specifically facing epidemic levels of homicide and that black trans women’s positionally exacerbates this. We can obviously stop sharing long-debunked statistics about trans women’s life expectancies, but the statement that trans people in general are facing epidemic levels of homicide is a similarly unfounded assertion. The work we do in our own lives and communities to combat anti-black racism and misogynoir is essential if we care about reducing trans murder; racism, sexism, and transantagonism are interconnected and perpetuate each other.

We can support anti-racist organizations, get involved with Black Lives Matter movements, donate to and lift up the black trans women in our own cities and towns. Organizations like BreakOUT!, a youth-led organizing collective working to resist the criminalization of queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming youth of color in New Orleans, have for years changed the “R” in Transgender Day of Remembrance to mean Resistance, Resilience, and Reinvestment as well. They launched the “Give Us Our Roses While We’re Still Here” campaign and #giveusourroses hashtag, which emphasized that issues like jobs, housing, and education are much more pressing and necessary to reducing violence and improving the lives of trans people of color than focusing on death. Their platform has been, since then, “Don’t just mourn—fight for trans lives!” Supporting organizations like BreakOUT! is crucial.

Their work highlights the need to contextualize violence against trans women — we are made more vulnerable to homicide because of the everyday violence and discrimination we face, often at the hands of peers and co-workers, and often due to the inaction of loved ones and friends.

Their work highlights the need to contextualize violence against trans women — we are made more vulnerable to homicide because of the everyday violence and discrimination we face, often at the hands of peers and co-workers, and often due to the inaction of loved ones and friends. A wave of political activism has arisen out of the fallout from our 45th president’s administration. Is getting involved in politics or supporting a candidate running for office — who has defined positions on combating everyday violence against trans people (preferably in ways that don’t increase or perpetuate state violence against us like hate crimes laws or increased police surveillance) — something you can do?

Second, we can shine a light on a definite, and often underreported, epidemic — trans suicide. While the vulnerability of young trans people to suicide has been discussed in mass media, it affects all of us, throughout our lives. Friends, allies, and loved ones of trans people can do much better to make it known to us that they’re here for us, willing to listen and do emotional labor, willing to assist us in accessing mental health services. Allies and supporters can do practical, everyday things like see if we need accompaniment (to the gym or to doctor and court appointments, for example), accountability checks (especially late at night or when you know we’re going through it), can check the degree to which we congratulate trans people on their “strength” for simply existing, and instead make an effort to recognize our vulnerability, tenderness, and frailty.

At present there doesn’t seem to exist a large-scale resource dedicated to remembering members of our trans family who have passed due to suicide. If you have the skills, interest, and/or capacity to take something like this on, I’m personally interested in trying to see if it’s possible, reach out to me.

While we must keep abreast of discrimination and abuse, we can also showcase the work being done to advocate for and support trans people, especially black trans women.

Finally, and this is especially true of media companies but relevant for anyone with a social media outlet like a Twitter or Facebook page — let’s match our homicide-focused posting with equal amounts of trans-affirming material. For every update about a murder victim, highlight a trans success story. While we must keep abreast of discrimination and abuse, we can also showcase the work being done to advocate for and support trans people, especially black trans women. One of my favorite podcasts, The Read, starts of every episode with “Black Excellence,” a story or two about black people doing amazing things. What if every media outlet with a trans-focused vertical had a “trans excellence” column? I’d write one.

Speaking of, we need more writing and reporting about trans issues from actual trans people. I’ve been really impressed and inspired by the way the @disabledwriters and @writersofcolor Twitter accounts share writing opportunities with their communities, but couldn’t find a similar outlet for trans writers. If you work in media, hiring and supporting trans writers and creators (especially black trans women writers) has to be a priority.

Overall, the focus on trans murder has an admirable goal — publicly remembering our dead is at its core an effort to show the world that our lives matter — but the way we’ve gone about it has had myriad unintended consequences. If we’re going to shift a culture that does not value black trans women’s lives, we have to shift the way we report on black trans women — including and especially when we report on our deaths. I implore our peers in media, as well as our readers and everyone else who cares about trans people and especially about black trans women — to take this plea to heart and work on creating this necessary shift.


Author note: Special thanks goes out to Sophie Schmieg, Jamie Berrout, and Mey Rude for support with this post!


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Abeni Jones is a multiracial black trans woman artist, educator, writer, and graphic designer living in Oakland, CA. Follow her on Twitter @abeni_jones or check out her website at abenijones.net. Support her work on Patreon here!.

Abeni has written 15 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. I second Chandra’s comment, this is really eye opening.

    Also, not for the first time have you (and AS in general) made me stop and think real hard about what I might be unconsciously projecting. Being catholic-indoctrinated there are prejudices seemingly baked into me that are very hard for me to actually see. Your work helps me uncover these things and although it hurts, I recognize that the insight will make me a better more loving person.

  2. Thank you for this. Widening the perspective is imho what has to happen now. Realizing that violence in a plethora of forms is a virtually omnipresent factor in trans women’ s lives is elementary, and the particular focus on suicide is not only justified but neccessary. Suicide is the way the patriarchy kills us off most efficiently while keeping every ‘ normal’ person’ s hands clean.

    In this article you distinguish between ‘ trans women of color’ or ‘ black trans women’ on the one hand and ‘ trans people’ on the other. Please stop doing that, it is misleading. There is a word for what trans women have to face, the word is transmisogyny. When trans women freeze to death in the Canadian winter because TERFs prevented their presence in women’ shelters this is transmisogyny. What I have to face when I go out of doors is transmisogyny, specifically, not some diffuse anti- trans hostility, it is directed against me as a woman and not as a trans person. In this city trans women sex workers are regularly assaulted, the thugs make it crystal clear that they attack these women as ‘ men in dresses’ and perverted non- women. Neither the GLB (t) ‘ community’ nor cis feminists appear to be particularly bothered.

    This also is transmisogyny:

    https://ravishly.com/2015/03/30/crazy-trans-woman-syndrome

    And it is not an exception, it is the rule.

    So you are asking for things you can do. Very well – stop transmisogyny, call out transmisogyny instead of calling out trans women. Realize we are women, it is about time already.

    Some further suggestions: investigate and analyze psychopathologization aimed particularly, or exclusively, at trans women. Julia Serano has written extensively about this and why it is so important regarding transmisogyny. Every aspect of transmisogyny I have ever encountered can also be found in psychiatric, sexological or psychological texts. Who gave and gives the aforementioned thugs here and elsewhere their ideas? Look no further than at the ‘ experts’. Trans women’ s death is iatrogenic more often than not – death by doctor.

    In this vein: educate yourself where gatekeeping still exists and call it out. Gatekeeping is blackmail, torture and a human rights violation. This has to cease.

    Stop being so lenient and understanding with TERFs. Damage to trans women done and caused by TERFs is easy to research. TERFdom is aggression and violence against trans women, trans women are women. Do not tolerate this any longer. And, study the crossfire pathologizing ‘ experts’ and TERFs have been keeping us under for decades.

    It goes without saying that there is an intersection between transmisogyny and racism, and that trans women of color and black trans women face the worst. Nevertheless, also in their case it is transmisogyny which forms the lethal combination with racism, transmisogyny and not anything else. Transmisogyny kills us, it makes us homeless, keeps us poor, drives us to the margins of society, transmisogyny is in the air that we breathe, it comes blaring out of your TV set, it is everywhere. And, I cannot imagine any living trans women who did not have to get transmisogyny out of her own system.

    So. Stand with us.

    • Hi Sabertooth,

      Are you responding to a comment that’s been deleted? Some of your comment seems directed at me, the author of the post, and others seem directed at readers of the post interested in being better allies/accomplices to black trans women. I might be missing some subtext though?

      I purposely make a distinction between trans women and trans people in general because when the mass media makes articles about “the deadliest year for trans people” and a “pandemic of trans murder,” it’s misleading – according to the data we have, trans people in general aren’t murdered at pandemic rates, black trans women are. I feel like distinguishing between “trans people in general” and “trans women in particular” is essential for understanding transmisogyny.

      I neglected to use the word “transmisogyny” in the post, though, and your point to that effect is well taken. I think I made a pretty clear effort to center the experiences of trans women, specifically black trans women, in the post, though I agree that highlighting the confluence of misogyny and transantagonism could have been better articulated by using that term.

      When you say “call out transmisogyny instead of calling out trans women. Realize we are women, it is about time already,” I assume you’re directing this point at readers of this post, and not at me, but if you are directing it at me I’d love to know where you interpret anything I wrote here as calling out trans women or denying other trans women their womanhood, which I would want to revise immediately! I assume this comment and the rest of your ideas/suggestions/extensions to the ones I provided at the end of the post are directed at cis readers of this post, so I hope they get seen by folks reading through the comments!

      • Hi Abeni,

        thank you kindly for taking the time with my single comment, and my sincere apologies for not being any clearer. This is difficult – you may have noticed that I comment from across the ocean, and there are so many differences regarding contexts and regarding terms, nomenclature, use of political lingo …whenever I write here I do my very best to keep that in mind. Generally speaking, everything that happened in Europe in general and where I live in particular regarding feminism, GLB ( t), female sex positivity, you name it, happens very much later, on a different scale and heavily leaning on US phenomena, from Queer Theory to any bundle of practices you may think of. The ‘ original’ is more often than not ripped out of its context, misunderstood and subsequently applied to settings and problems they cannot properly address. Almost anyone understands a bit of English but most people, the poorer and more marginalized in particular – that of course includes the majority of trans women – would find it impossible to read, say, your article. Thus, for example, while feminist online magazines actually imitate US formats in general and Autostraddle in particular ( yes they do) trans women are almost never mentioned at all, transmisogyny is the norm and blooms under the auspices of a vague ‘ trans inclusiveness’ that would make your eyes water, believe me.

        Thus, although being an Autostraddle reader for years and in spite of all the care and thought I dedicate to context problems I was in serious doubt whether I and other white trans women living in countries with different histories and different problems – regarding forms of racism, sexism and misogyny in particular – are even ‘ seen’ and ‘ meant’ …this comes from using ‘ trans women of color’ or ‘ black trans women’ almost synonymous with ‘ trans women’. Am I not a trans woman? Am I ‘ better off’, do I ‘ have it easy’ by default? Am I Caitlin Jenner in disguise? My confidence that almost nobody over there actually sees it that way is growing, but each and every time I have to navigate the context jungle, with varying success I admit.

        I hope I made it crystal clear that I do see the horrifying results of racism and transmisogyny combined, it is vital for my trans women solidarity and I know that feminist trans women here are with me in this. Adamantly. Here, white ‘ native’ trans women sex workers organize defense against thugs in ways that keep in mind the particular vulnerabilities and problems of non- white, non- ‘ native’ trans women sex workers, they organize with them in absolute solidarity. I am not a sex worker but I have been fighting racism since I was a teenager and of course I do not stop now.

        So, perhaps you understand that, and why, I am not happy with the distinction ‘ black trans women’/ ‘trans women of color’ versus ‘ trans people’. We, my white feminist trans women sisters and me, we are trans women, full stop, and we are in this together as trans women. This is my point.

        Making and pointing out a significant distinction between ‘ trans women’ and ‘trans people’ – here I am absolutely with you. Transmisogyny is not some vague or general ‘ anti- trans- hostility’, the latter tends to overwrite and implicitly deny that trans women are women and that we face discrimination and violence as women. I think we are on the same page here. I do not insist on transmisogyny as a term for some theoretical reason, I do because it is something distinct, and denying this opens the gates for more transmisogyny. Most important, denying transmisogyny as something distinct is connected with transmisogyny in practice in feminist and GLB(t) contexts, I linked to Morgan M. Page’ s piece for a reason.

        The rest of my post was indeed an improvised bundle of suggestions for those who would do something against trans misogyny, and, yes, against trans misogyny directed at black trans women and trans women of color in particular. I went beyond your article, and I should have made this clear – apologies.

        What can I say, I am a working class brat from some very remote corner of the Old World living as a woman now in what we call a big city here, something you would probably laugh about. Believe me, the struggles we trans women are in here a bitter and hard. But we stand, we trans women feminists, and we stand with you. If that gets across the ocean,if you see and hear and feel that, I have not failed.

        Thank you again for the great piece you wrote.

        • Hi Sabertooth,

          First, it wasn’t explicit in my post but because I used only statistics and examples relevant to the United States I hope it’s evident that I’m basically only talking about the United States. I simply don’t have the experience or data to make any claims about trans issues worldwide. That’s problematic and perhaps someone with more experience can do more work to make claims about worldwide trans issues. I’m not the person to do it.

          I do make a distinction between trans women of color (especially black trans women) and white trans women on purpose. Again, that’s because of the context – I’m talking about the U.S. I think context is super important when talking about race. Race functions differently in different countries, regions, and communities. As I hope I made clear in my piece, when we talk about trans homicide in the U.S. it’s crucial to note that black trans women are murdered at higher rates. That doesn’t mean white trans women aren’t murdered and it doesn’t mean white trans women have it easy or something. And it also definitely doesn’t imply in any way that white trans women aren’t women. Nor does it indicate that we’re not “in this together.”

          The section on “violence” notes that all trans people face everyday violence (though trans people of color experience elevated levels due to the intersection of racism with transantagonism/transmisogyny).

          So, I do see why you’re unhappy with the distinction between trans women of color and white trans women, but I don’t apologize for making the distinction. I believe the distinction is crucial. White trans women are still white, and while we all experience transmisogyny we don’t all experience its intersection with racism. It’s OK with me if that makes you uncomfortable. I don’t know where you’re from or what race issues are like in your particular country or community, but again I’m just talking about the US, so some things aren’t going to come across the same or be as relevant to other contexts.

          Your point about inaccessibility due to academic language is well taken.

          • Gotcha, did I do that in the post or in my comments to Sabertooth or are you responding to something they said? Either way, I’ll respond to you.

            TERFs aren’t primarily “to blame” for murders of trans women that they don’t commit, and I don’t think anyone here ever claimed that?

            The point of this article, though, is that focusing on murder isn’t doing us any favors. It’s things like TERF ideology that contribute to the daily violence and discrimination we face, that affects our mental health etc. We’d do better to focus on discrimination and mental health if we want to support trans women than focus on who’s murdering us.

            So anyway, it’s really absurd to claim that TERF ideology isn’t violent or doesn’t contribute to violence against trans women. When I say “I’m a woman” and TERFs say “no you’re not, you’re a deluded, mental ill man who’s trying to access women’s spaces in order to rape and kill women,” that’s… violent. Did you read the part of my post about expanding what we consider “violent” beyond just physical harm?

            Also, TERF isn’t a slur and it doesn’t describe people who “critique gender ideology.” All feminists critique gender ideology. TERFs are essentialists who have drawn a box around what “woman” is based on body parts (that not all cis women have, btw) or childhood experiences (that not all cis girls experience, btw) in order to specifically exclude/exterminate trans women.

            So, fuck TERFs but yeah I didn’t focus on them in my article. I do think their ideology is worthy of critique, contributes to violence against trans women and is on the spectrum of violence I mentioned in my post. Let’s focus less on murder and more on how we can support trans women in their daily lives.

          • If you bar the gate, lock the doors, and shutter the windows to someone seeking shelter in a hostile environment things hypothermia, hyperthermia, animal attack, infection, starvation are the COD on the death certificate yes? You didn’t lay a hand on the person but you could have prevented their death if you had helped, if you had listened to their plea for shelter.

            I know I cannot change your mind because you have come here in full faith of your righteousness and anything I say will likely harden your stance, but perhaps I can change someone else’s.

            Yes this means I will not debate with you because I have said my piece and encourage other not to debate with you either, it would be like asking a boulder for mercy.

          • I think it’s important to distinguish between the term ‘TERF’ actually means. It doesn’t mean any old cis person who makes an ignorant comment. It means people like Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys, whose advocacy has resulted in more barriers to employment, health care and exclusion from women’s shelters and rape crisis centres. They make trans women more vulnerable to violence. Trans women are STILL banned from the rape crisis centre in my home town. TERFs did that. It’s cruel, unjustifiable, and tramples the human rights of women who need that service. I understand that biological essentialism occurred in a specific historical context, and was advanced by women who sincerely believed they were protecting themselves, but the consequences have proven to be devastating for trans women. Trans women are also vulnerable to sex-based violence, regardless of what you call their ‘material reality’. They experience disproportionate rates of sexual violence. This is why it’s especially distressing to see their continued exclusion from rape crisis centres.

            L, I would also ask you to consider the ways in which excluding trans women from ‘women’s only spaces’ essentially mirrors the way cis lesbians were treated a generation ago and are still treated in some places today. I am a cis woman, and yet because I am a lesbian, I have been asked to leave change rooms for ‘making other women feel unsafe’, not because of anything I did, but because of my very identity and the fact that I look different. This really isn’t so different from the experience of trans women. In such spaces, I relate more to trans women than the cis women who ask me to leave. And yet lesbians are accepted in many feminist spaces by TERFs who acknowledge that being attracted to women doesn’t make us predatory. But we can’t have it both ways. Either you have a women’s only space designed for cis and heterosexual women only, or you acknowledge that NO LGBTQ women are threatening based on body type or sexual desire. To imply that letting trans women into these institutions threatens their capacity to help cis women is tantamount to saying that letting me into a women’s health collective will prevent it from focusing on birth control access because I don’t use it.

  3. Thank you so much for working and thinking this out. I’ve had questions about those numbers, I’ve been numbed out before — I said in my irritable, “why isn’t there a trans march/tdov/anything other than tdor in NYC” post this morning, “We do other things than get killed.” Long overdue in general, but i found it here on AS, which after all is why I joined.

  4. Thank you Abeni for this–for the effort and research and time that went into this and for writing this so clearly and putting into words a frustration that’s been growing for me re: how trans issues and trans stories are presented and what priorities should be but that I’ve struggled to put into words. Thank you so much.

  5. This was an exceptional piece, Abeni. Thank you so much for doing the work and sharing it with us. I thought the parallel you made with Michael Mann’s statement about climate change was so brilliant…and just made that point so abundantly clear…it was perfect.

    You may have left the classroom, but once a teacher, always a teacher. I learned so much.

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