There is an unspoken epidemic in our country.
Since January 1, 2015, there has been sixteen trans people, fifteen of them trans women, murdered in the US and one in Canada. Majority were trans women of color. Both race and gender play a factor in the deaths.
The media often presents them as a novelty — using the wrong name and pronouns, describing them in ways that dehumanizes them. The media will often go so far as to paint them as sex workers, despite it being a false claim for most of the cases. Rarely will other publications comment on it. Often only trans people seem to speak up for them. We cry out in anger and pain at the losses, and yet our cisgender so-called allies are often quiet. Sometimes our cisgender queer allies will demean the dead further by arguing over whether they were even women, and if trans women in general are even allowed to be called women. This is just more violence done to them after their deaths and further violence done to the living. By arguing against our identities, people are engaging in verbal violence that causes direct harm. Couple this with how discriminatory our culture is toward trans people, staying alive becomes incredibly difficult. It’s why the life expectancy of trans women of color is 30 to 35 years old. Those within our country often don’t allow them to exist, and many of us face violence whether it is physical, psychological, or verbal.
To honor our dead, I will repeat their names so they are never forgotten:
Papi Edwards, January 9th, Kentucky
Lamia Beard, January 17th, Virginia
Ty Underwood, January 26, Texas
Yazmin Vash Payne, January 31, California
Taja DeJesus, February 3, California
Penny Proud, February 10, Lousiana
Bri Golec, February 13, Ohio
Kristina Gomez Reinwald, February 15, Florida
Sumaya Ysl, February 22, Canada
Keyshia Blige, March 7, Illinois
Vanessa Santillan, March 28, Florida
Mya Hall, March 30, Maryland.
London Chanel, May 18, Pennsylvania
Mercedes Williamson, June 2, Mississippi
India Clarke, July 21, Florida
K.C. Haggard, July 23, California
They never should have died, and the outrage and grief over their deaths haunt me still. May they rest in peace.
There is an unspoken epidemic in our country. Since December 26, 2014 to today, there has been over a dozen suicides by trans people, possibly more as not all get coverage. These are sometimes younger trans folks and sometimes older. They are all over the country. And their suicide notes, if they have any, are always the same — lamenting the fact that our country is too hostile, the discrimination too great, and the lack of hope of it ever being better the final straw. The media, if it even acknowledges their deaths, often fails to gender them correctly, often using the wrong name and putting their chosen name in quotes. Studies have shown that over 41% of trans people attempted suicide, and that study and similar ones show that it is due to a tremendous amount of discrimination at nearly all levels of our lives. 1 in 2 transgender people have been sexually abused at some point in our lives. These numbers are significantly higher for trans people of color than for white trans people — as the intersection of race and gender identity makes life exceptionally harder.
For many of the trans people who have died, their families may decide to not honor who they were in life and will bury them with the wrong name. Even in death they are misgendered and forgotten, their true selves lost by an uncaring world. Can people not see that misgendering a trans person is in itself a form of violence? It is a denial of a trans person’s identity – of their true self — and to misgender us is to violently deny our existence as well as placing us in danger.
There is an unspoken epidemic in this country. Trans people like me and many of my friends are the victims of a war against us, a war we never started nor wished for. We wish only to live out our lives as ourselves, but society will not have this. We are not allowed in public spaces without others questioning our right to exist. We face the threat of violence from people we know and from strangers. We face people misgendering us, and others treating us like we are monsters to be reviled. Police often will treat transgender people badly, often claiming suspicion of prostitution when there is no evidence. Still others try to (and sometimes do) enact laws to make it harder for us to access healthcare or even to use the restroom.
There is an unspoken epidemic in this country, and until justice is served and equality given, I will not be silent.