A harrowing glance at the rise in transgender deaths

In a world where same-sex marriage is now widely accepted, homosexual characters are depicted on television and LGBT celebrities such as Laverne Cox having such massive success, you would assume the world was changing for the better right? Wrong.

Since the end of December 2014, across the globe there have been eight murders and two high profile suicides of transgender people, as well as one high profile attempted suicide. In nine weeks, 10 people (that have been reported as trans, because police have a habit of reporting deaths using legal names) have lost their lives because society couldn’t handle their gender identity. That’s over one life lost every week.

trans deaths

Even if you’re not a Tumblr user, you will more than likely have heard of the suicide of 17-year old Leelah Alcorn. She was the first of these recent ten deaths, stepping in front of a truck on 28 December in Ohio, after being told she would not be able to transition from her parents. Her heart-breaking suicide note was scheduled to post hours after she died, being reposted over 200,000 times in three days before her parents requested the site removed it.

In the note, Leelah talks about the personal hell that was her family home. Isolated from her friends, her strictly religious parents insisted to her that ‘God does not make mistakes’, when she told them of her gender identity. The unsupportiveness of her parents demonstrates the lack of awareness of these issues in modern society, something she said needed ‘fixing’ in the end of her blog.

A similar fate was suffered by Zander Mahaffey, a 15-year old trans boy whose family also made it difficult for him to transition, with him posting his suicide not on Tumblr as well.

In a survey conducted by PACE, a mental health charity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, it was found that 48% of trans people under 26 attempted suicide, 30% had done so in the past year, and 59% had at least considered doing so due to the harsh treatment they face from their identity. It involved interviews and a survey of more than 2,000 people in England from 2010 to 2014.

In comparison to the suicide rate – publicly announced, that is – the murder rate is much higher. Across the United States, eight trans women have been murdered in the space of 34 days. It seems that trans women are the bearers of most transphobic abuse.

Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Yazmin Payne, Taja DeJesus, Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Kristina Reinwald and Sumaya Ysl were all killed between 17 January and 22 February 2015.

The worrying trend of transgender women being murdered is the starting point that needs altering if transphobia is to ever be a thing of the past. Innocent women who are trying to live their lives in the way they are meant to be are being killed by friends, family and strangers in vicious hate crimes.

Of the eight women killed, six of them are women of colour. Women of colour are predominantly targeted as a major group for transphobic abuse and often suffer from an intertwining of racial, misogynistic and transphobic hate crimes. Laverene Cox has stated she attempted suicide at the age of 11, after being abused for her sexuality and skin colour.

Yazmin Payne and Ty Underwood suffered at the hands of domestic abuse, both being killed by boyfriends or lovers and Bri Golec, 22, of Akron, Ohio was killed by her own father, who then proceeded to tell police that she was in a cult and her fellow members had killed her. The disturbing statistic of eight murders before the end of February is staggeringly higher than the mere 12 reported transgender murders of 2014.

Often the murderers of trans women are known men (friends and boyfriends), and sometimes they are casual sex partners. Many trans women end up turning to sex work because of prejudice in the workplace, and trans women are often vulnerable to attacks from their clients.

Transphobia is swiftly becoming one of the most predominant LGBT obstacles, with society not adapting to the movement and acceptance as quickly as they are with homosexuality. #TransLivesMatter has become a rampant hashtag on Twitter and Tumblr that users can follow to join the fight to end the prejudice. We also reported this week on some of the activists behind #BlackLivesMatter, who are LGBT, and have called on this hashtag to represent all people of colour – especially LGBT people.

We need to do act on this matter. Now. Today. How many more women need to be killed before something is done? Leelah made an extremely valid point that rings over the world. We need to fix society. For her. For all of them. The suicides need to make people listen. And the murders need to make people look at their fellow neighbours, friends, family and themselves and think, ‘What if it was me?’

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