A few months ago, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released a report finding that 2016 was the most deadly year on record for LGBTQ hate crimes, not including the Pulse Orlando shooting which killed 49 people. Just a couple of days ago, the organization released another report to BuzzFeed News finding, even more, stark numbers in 2017, with four months still left in the year. More LGBTQ people have been killed so far in 2017 than in all of 2016.
NCAVP reported that as of August 2017, 33 LGBTQ people have been killed in hate-related incidents. In 2016, there were 28, not including the 49 people killed in Pulse Orlando. That means that roughly every six days in 2017 an LGBTQ person was murdered because of who they are. With four months still left in the year, the release of these numbers is devastating.
Of those 33 homicides, 16 were found to be transgender women of color. This number already surpassing the 15 transgender women of color reported murdered in 2016.
This increase in deaths is a result of an uptick in anti-LGBTQ violence, but also shows an increase in reporting LGBTQ deaths. An escalation of media coverage and general public awareness on LGBTQ issues—in particular trans issues—could also be a cause. The double-edged sword of increased awareness is increased visibility, which some people living in more rural and conservative areas don’t want because it causes these upticks in bigoted violence.
Beverly Tillery, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, told BuzzFeed News,
“I think whether it’s an increase in reporting, an increase in violence, or some combination thereof, it should be a wake-up call for us across our communities that hate violence is not going away, it’s certainly not decreasing, and it’s symptomatic of larger and deeper problems in our society that we still haven’t addressed,”
Though this tally by the NCAVP isn’t definitive, it’s the best data that our community has access to with the absence of reliable nationwide government data on LGBTQ lives. The organization gathers their data from media reports, friends and family members of victims, and sister organizations across the country. They define hate violence by whether or not the victim was targeted because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. It doesn’t necessarily mean our legal system categorized these incidents as hate crimes.
“There are a lot more homicides of LGBT people than what they report,” Dallas Drake, senior researcher at the Center for Homicide Research, told BuzzFeed News. “They don’t report generally from communities that are smaller or where cases are not easily identifiable as LGBT homicides.”
This increase in anti-LGBTQ violence comes at a time when we are seeing hatred of all kinds rise up, emboldened by our president. There were a reported 52 anti-LGBTQ groups in 2016, numbers coming from the Southern Poverty Law Center. As the Trump administration quickly walks back the progress President Obama made with affirming policies for transgender students and the LGBTQ community at large, we are seeing the ramifications result in deaths very quickly.
“People are dying as a result of anti-LGBT violence almost daily in this country, and it is everyone’s problem. People need to understand that it’s happening in their communities whether they’re wealthy communities, poor communities, white communities, communities of color, immigrant communities,” Shelby Chestnut, director of community organizing and public advocacy at Tillery’s agency, told USA Today. “Now, more than ever, people need to stand up and defend the rights of LGBT people.”
We stand firmly against white supremacy. We are committed to the resistance against racism. We believe that #blacklivesmatter. We see the growing hate in this country and we know we must take action. Silence is complacency. Do what you can to take action. Donate what you can to Black led organizations. Speak out against white supremacy and #45. Call out your family members, friends and coworkers when they are racist. We need to do better.