The following is put together in collaboration with organisers of one of the main UK events taking place in November 2012. It is here as an initial press resource: but if anyone would like further information on individual events, please let me know and i will make introductions as appropriate.
On Tuesday 20 November thousands of members of the Trans community and their supporters will gather together at locations around the globe for the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). They will do so to commemorate the hundreds of individuals murdered each year simply for being transgender.
In the UK, events are scheduled to take place in venues across the country, including London, Southampton, Cambridge, Liverpool and Edinburgh1.
Murder on a massive scale
International statistics compiled by the Trans Respect Monitoring Project identified at least 265 trans people murdered in the last 12 months2, an increase of approx 20% on the previous year.
The actual number is likely to be much greater than that reported. In some areas, including many African countries, trans victims are frequently recorded as Lesbian or Gay. Other areas where significant under-reporting is widely believed to occur include Russia, parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
85% of reported killings3 took place in Latin America, with 45% in Brazil alone. Other countries where more than 1 trans murder was reported include Turkey, Pakistan, the Phillippines and the United States, which saw a small reduction in trans murders. Behind these figures is the further issue that 80% of trans murder victims in the US are identified as black or latino4.
In addition, for every murder, many hundreds of incidents of violence and abuse directed at trans persons are reported.
State (in)action a major cause of death
While individual perpetrators claim a variety of reasons for their actions – with religion high on the list – state policy, both official and unofficial, often plays an even greater role:
• A small number of countries (in Africa and the Middle East) retain the death penalty for homosexuality: a much larger number regard homosexuality as a criminal act or a disorder to be “cured”. While these laws are rarely targeted against the trans community, little distinction is drawn between trans and gay individuals, with the former often far more obviously identifiable.
• When states communicate the undesirability of trans individuals, this rapidly translates into violence by vigilante groups, with police and security forces either turning a blind eye or actively colluding.
• Social exclusion, from jobs and education and training and inadequate health care and support often forces young trans people into prostitution, making them easy targets for murder and violence.
Even where support for trans individuals is strong, there is often a failure to recognise the scale and degree of violence directed against trans individuals, leading to asylum seekers being returned to countries where they have a real fear for their lives:
• In early 2012, Sweden rejected an asylum application from a young Russian trans woman, “Lita”, who had previously been attacked and beaten by Russian police and feared death if forced to return to Russia. Lita has since gone into hiding.
• In summer 2012, Denmark initially rejected an asylum claim by trans activist, Fernanda Milan, despite the concern expressed by international observers that she was unlikely to survive more than a few days if forced to return to Guatemala.
Significance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance around the world…
The TDoR event is held on 20 November each year to honor Rita Hester, whose murder in 1998 was inspiration for the “Remembering Our Dead” web project5 and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Since then, the event has grown to encompass memorials over 200 cities and over 20 countries across the world.
TDoR is a day organised by trans people for trans people: a day when trans people come together to speak out in shared acknowledgment of the reality of being trans in a world that remains largely hostile to our very existence.
It is a day when the trans community commemorates its dead.
…and in the UK
TDoR is about trans people being murdered. A major focus of events in the UK is therefore on solidarity with the trans community in Latin America, where the reported rate of trans murder is exceptionally high. There is also growing concern for countries such as Russia, where legislation hostile to LGBT rights is fuelling a vigilante backlash.
The UK has not been without its casualties. These include:
– Andrea Waddell (Brighton)
– Destiny Lauren (Kentish Town)
There is also a significant problem with violence, especially domestic violence against trans people. According to a survey carried out as exploration of the Equality Act:
– 70% of trans individuals reported being harassed in a public place;
– 10% reported being threatened in a public place;
– 6% reported having been assaulted in a public place.
However, this issue, considered a significant factor in trans suicide remains largely under-reported6,7.
Natacha Kennedy, co-organiser of the London TDoR said today: “Trans people have always existed in every civilization throughout human history. Their persecution, however, is, relatively recent, dating back probably no more than 500 years in most instances.”
Notes for editors:
1 A selection of locations at which the TDoR will take place across the world may be found here.
2 To put this into perspective: the trans community is a small minority, estimated at around 0.5% of the population worldwide. If this pattern were repeated in respect of other segments of the population, for example, this would equate to c.25,000 women being killed simply for being women each and every year.
3 Of particular concern are the number of killings which involve gratuitous use of high levels of violence. These include stonings, which are on the rise and which suggests a religious motivation, frenzied multiple stabbings, setting on fire, multiple shootings and torturing (to death), as happened last year to three young trans women in the Phillippines.
4 Most victims of trans murder are trans women: some are trans men. The youngest transphobic murder was in Aug 2010 where the victim was only 18 months old. Last year a number of teenagers were murdered. 77% were aged 30 or under.
5 Remembering our Dead: the website may be found here.
6 In November 2010, the Daily Express wrote sceptically of the event, condemning police involvement in a Glasgow celebration as a waste of money and questioned the existence of violence against trans individuals. The actual cost to the Strathclyde Force appears to have been around an hour of one officer’s time, which included providing advice to individuals on how to avoid being the victims of violent crime.
7 In November 2012, it was reported that a trans woman was punched and knocked unconscious by an unknown assailant just seconds after walking into a bar in Leicester. Leicestershire Police are now investigating.