The So-Called Transgender Murder Epidemic

I have been waiting until I finished the design of this blog before starting regular posting, but I really don’t know when I am going to get around to that and there are too many things now that merit commenting upon. Forgive the uninspiring appearance; I promise to sort things out. Eventually.

The news media have been trumpeting what is being called an “alarming rise in anti-transgender violence” and a “state of emergency” in the United States. Certainly, any number of murders is too many. As a transgender person, I find the murder of others because of their gender identity to be particularly saddening, but as a rational person, I do not believe that the sky is falling. Statistically, the number of murdered transgender persons is astonishingly small and the fomenting of a panic is misplaced and could ultimately become counterproductive.

An article yesterday in the Guardian proclaimed that the United States was failing to properly track this new state of emergency, saying that the correct number of hate-related murders of transgender people was not seventeen, but eighteen. Once, again, eighteen murders is eighteen too many, but is it really a major escalation of violence? Conservative estimates place the number of transgender people in the United States at 700,000. More liberal estimates put the number at 1% of the total population, around 3.1 million. At the current rate, we can project the number of transgender murders to be 27 by the end of the year. That means that the chance of a transgender person being murdered in any given year because of their gender identity is 1 in 25,925. If we assume the more liberal transgender population of 3.1 million, the odds become 1 in 114,814. These are surprising odds, considering that, according to the FBI, there were 14,196 murders in 2013 making the odds of any American being murdered in any particular year 1 in 21,791. In other words, the odds of being murdered for being transgender are smaller than for the population as a whole.

The only reason that people perceive a drastic rise in anti-transgender violence is that they are only beginning to pay attention to it. It is only recently that the transgender issue has emerged in the American psyche, only recently that a spate of openly transgender people have become very visible in the public conscience. It is only this year, despite the prior existence of far more capable ambassadors for the transgender cause, that Caitlyn Jenner has sparked the meteoric rise in concern about the plight of transgender people. Transgender violence, however, is not the real problem. There are far more pressing issues such as discrimination, harassment, mental health and the plight of transgender youth, particularly those in intolerant homes and communities. Transgender people are far, far more likely to kill themselves than to be murdered. They are far more likely to be homeless, unemployed, uninsured and depressed than the population at large. Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable as they are often not allowed to make decisions for themselves and may be forcibly subjected to “corrective therapy” by woefully misguided parents. I understand that murder is very sensational, but expending a huge amount of energy decrying hate crimes diverts attention from key issues that are a far greater threat to the well-being of transgender people.

Ultimately, Americans may grow weary of this exaggeration of a transgender murder epidemic once it becomes apparent that it is not as severe as it is being portrayed in the media. Unfortunately, that could result in weariness over the transgender issue at large. That would be tragic, as many have fought long and hard to increase awareness and are only now beginning to realize that goal. Hopefully, those who are dictating the narrative will see this and not squander the good will transgender people currently enjoy on a fruitless crusade to combat a nearly non-existent threat.