‘Rising epidemic of violence’ not helped by COVID
Homicides of transgender people have been on the rise since 2019, according to data from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). In 2021 the number of murders has doubled to 50.
Within the first seven months of 2020, more transgender people were murdered than in all of 2019, People Magazine reported as the number reached 28. The American Medical Association called this a “rising epidemic of violence,” according to article in People.
Black trans women account for more than 90% of the victims that are targeted, according to NTCG statistics. Most of the violence is not only based on gender identity, but on skin color.
San Quentin prisoners from the LGBTQ+ held a Transgender Day of Remembrance Ceremony in honor of the trans women that were killed. The event was the first of its kind in any U.S. prison. In attendance was California State Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, whose advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community was critical to the event’s success.
In SQ, trans women have opined that fear of beatings, sexual harassment, homophobic slurs, and even death, are a part of their daily lives, in and outside of prison.
“A lot of times, we trans women face discriminations because of our gender identity, but most abuses come from not telling the person who we are and what we are about,” said Eriqa Slack, a trans woman who is incarcerated at San Quentin.
“But it’s the fear of harm perpetrated upon us so regularly that prevents us from opening up. We only want to be accepted for who we are as a people,” Eriqa added.
The theme of the event, “Trans Lives Matter Everywhere,” has sparked debate on how trans women can be safe from hate crimes predicated on gender identity in the United States.
“There will always be hate out there when you’re not being true to yourself. At the end of the day, you have to be who and what you are,” said Jordan, a trans woman at San Quentin. “For me, it took time to embrace my identity, but I don’t go back and forth between who I was and who I am. That puts everything in perspective right there.”
Forbes Magazine reported transgender murders are up worldwide. There were 350 in 2020. But 2021 proved to be the deadliest year yet, with 375 murders.
“There shouldn’t be any discrimination against any human being just because of the color of our skin,” said Eriqa. “We all have the same color blood on the inside, but it seems that trans lives will always be at stake wherever we go. It’s up to us to stick together and protect our LGBTQ+ community.”
“People target us for all kinds of reasons,” San Quentin resident Cinnie K added. “They target us under the guise of wanting a friendship or a relationship, but their goal is to harm us. How can we feel safe when we can’t really trust people outside of our LGBTQ+ community? Even being in prison we are subjected to discrimination and harassment, when all we want to do is live our lives,” she concluded.
Many trans murders go uncounted because, according to People, police and family members don’t accurately report the victim’s gender.
“Whenever you’re facing the systemic issues we face as Black people, that triple identity of being a Black, trans woman, it’s easy to just give up or not want to get out of bed, but you never saw Shakie do that,” said Natalie Nia Faulk of her friend, Shakie Peters, who was found fatally shot along a roadside ditch in rural Amite City, La. Police initially identified her as a man, reported People.
“There are some men that group up, and target transgender women walking around; their main focus is to abuse or harm them,” said Eriqa. “Some even look for their victims online, acting like they want to get to know them, but all they’re trying to do is set them up so that they can hurt you.”
“There are transgender people who think they are going out for a night on the town, and have to worry about getting drugged, which could lead to death,” said Cinnie K.
“It’s more of a risk being in prison, because we’re more likely to be the first person that someone will target to get off on,” Eriqa said.