Hate crimes have come to the forefront of America's conciousness with the spike in motivated attacks following Donald Trump's election and the trial of Dylann Roof underway. But discussions of hate crimes often leave out one of the most targeted populations: trans women of color. Now, a new project is seeking to right the wrongs of hate crime reporting by accurately tracing the murders of and assaults on trans people.
At least 23 trans people were murdered in 2016. Along with the heinous tragedy of the deaths themselves, trans people are often misgendered or flat-out belittled in the news that reports on them, or by family members who refuse to accept their identities even after death, or by police doing the investigations. Mic contributing editor Meredith Talusan has revealed the Unerased project, hoping to correct these mistakes with her new endeavor. Along with Talusen, a team of five reporters have built a comprehensive database of transgender Americans who have died by homicide since 2010.
According to Mic: When a trans person is murdered, the chances that their death will be publicly accounted for diminish at every stage. "It starts with people hesitating to even go to the police, even when someone is murdered," Shannon Minter, a transgender attorney who serves as legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said. "But at every stage there are bias-based obstacles ... and those levels reinforce each other." This extends to the criminal justice process as well, with many juries not willing to convict these murderers at all.
"Our institutions of recording death — coroners, death certificates, police reports, hospital records, obituaries — are unprepared to represent transgender," added Alexis Dinno, a social epidemiologist at Portland State University who is herself trans. "The boxes labeled 'was transgender' do not exist to be checked off or not. Also, that someone is transgender, whether surgically or hormonally transitioned or not, is not necessarily apparent to individuals and institutions that record deaths."
"For many people, and especially people in positions of power who create policies and run institutions, a prerequisite for recognizing a problem as a problem is to be able to quantify it," said Talusan to Out, explaining the need for the effort. "And because the federal government has so far not collected data on trans-related murders systematically, LGBTQ organizations and activists have been doing so, in order to try to demonstrate and quantify the crisis."
"So far, news reports about trans murders have largely consisted either of individual incidences of transgender murder or lists of people who've been murdered in a given year," she continued. "This doesn't give us enough insight into the scale and specificity of the epidemic of trans murders especially among black trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes."
Talusen also noted the media's reticence towards covering these incidents: "Trans people, and especially black transfeminine people who became the particular focus of this project in the course of our investigation, live at an intersection of identities that are marginalized and overlooked in society, and the media is not exempt from that process in terms of who gets to define its priorities and interests."
If you have tips and information that could help the project, you can submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org or through a form at the bottom of the Unerased feature.