Why Black Trans Lives Matter

We often hear about crimes in some distant way through our various news outlets, and increasingly through the curated lens of our social media platforms. If you aren’t actively seeking out the less mainstream news, its nearly impossible to know whats going on in other communities. Moreover, in a year with so many acts of terrorism and mass shootings, there is a tendency for the less dramatic (read: clickbaitable and profitable) tragedies to get pushed to the background.

In short, we are on track to have the highest rate of murder within the black trans community on record.

If you happened to read Better Angels of Our Nature, then you probably are familiar with the overall message of the declining rate of violence globally over time. Similarly, we’ve seen crime drop precipitously domestically despite the fire and brimstone rhetoric from the political Right. While these declining rates of overall murder are still true, we can clearly see that this is not true for all communities.

Last year had the highest murder rate for trans people ever with a disproportionately high number of those murders of people of color, and even more narrowly of black trans individuals. This number has been rising for years and we are on track for another horrendous year already.

To put some of this to numbers, there are about 1.4 million transgender individuals in the US. Assuming that the racial demographics still hold true, then 13% of these individuals are black, or rather there are approximately 182,000 black transgender individuals in the US total.

Of the 17 total this year, 12 of them have been black. With those 12 murdered this year in the first 8 months, there will be 15 murders by the end of the year if the rate holds constant.

The most common method of determining the murder rate is the number of homicides per 100,000 individuals per year.

Inevitably, this means that 71% of all transgender homicides this year have been of black individuals, despite being 13% of the population overall.

Furthermore, the murder rate of black transgender people is on track to become 8.24. The national murder rate is 3.9.

Regardless of where any person stands on transgender rights, the last 7 years under the Obama administration have represented a undeniable shift toward acknowledging the common humanity and right to happiness of transgender people. They have also revealed a society woefully unprepared to extend the same basic human rights to all black transgender people.

Visibility should not mean vulnerability, and recognition should not be a death sentence.

We have come so far, but we still have so far to go. #BlackTransLivesMatter