In this post I will examine the available data about the relative level of violence faced by transgender people. I will specifically focus on murder rates, because murder is the ultimate act of violence and because data on murders is more reliable and more widely available than data of other violent crimes.
Let’s start in the United States. At the time of writing the FBI has published data for 2015. I am taking data from the Expanded Homicide Data Table 1, which can be seen here.
This table breaks down murder victims by race, ethnicity and sex. I will only consider the breakdown by sex. In 2015 in the United States
* Men were murdered at the rate of 6.6 people per 100,000
* Women were murdered at the rate of 1.8 per 100,000
* On average the murder rate was 4.9 per 100,000
So what about trans people? This data is not available from the FBI, but several trans activist and human rights groups track trans murders.
I want to calculate the rate of trans murders per 100,000 to be able to compare it with the FBI murder rates given above. To calculate this number I need to know how many trans people there are and how many were murdered, so I can do the following calculation:
100,000 * (number of transpeople murdered)/(total number of trans people)
First I need to know an estimate of the size of the trans population. According to this New York Times article, which is reporting on research done by the Williams institute of law at UCLA, there are approximately 1.4 million trans identified adults in the USA.
Update 2017–05–22 Please note this research is based on a survey done in 2014, since the survey was not repeated in 2015 I have made the assumption that the size of the trans population remained the same. Thanks to @0Balaam for pointing this out.
To find out the number of trans people killed in the USA in 2015 I looked at the Wikipedia page, List of Unlawfully Killed Transgender People. There is even a specific section for the United States for 2015. There are 19 people on this list. HRC has already published data for 2016 and in 2016 20 trans people were murdered, so this figure, like the general population murder rates seems reasonably stable.
So lets plug the numbers,
100,000 * 19 / 1,400,000 = 1.4
This is lower than both the murder rates of men (6.6) or women (1.8). So the data says that trans people are murdered at a lower rate than the general population. Being trans in 2015 in the United States actually lowered your chances of getting murdered. Read that last sentence again or look at this bar chart.
UPDATE : The site GLAAD states that 21 trans people were killed in 2015 , plugging 21 instead of 19 gives a rate of 1.5 not 1.4. This is still a lower rate than the general population or women.
But what about other countries?
Let’s start in Europe. Instead of making a strict comparison of murder rates as above I’ll just mention some facts. In order not to get bogged down, I looked at the UK, where I am from, and France where I now live.
- Again using the Wikipedia list of transpeople murdered referenced above in the EU, that is the entire European Union, not a single trans person was murdered in 2015. Unfortunately in 2016 there were 3 trans people murdered. Update : According to an article by Transgender Europe published in 2013, 71 killings of trans people have been reported in Europe (2008: 13, 2009: 20, 2010: 10, 2011: 14, 2012: 14). So there are years with zero trans people murders and others with murders. Lets plug the numbers for 2009 which was the worst year with 20 murders. The population of Europe in 2010 (sorry can’t find exact number of 2009) was 740 million, going with a 0.3% trans population (the lower bound) gives an estimate of 740,000,000 * 0.003 = 2,200,000 trans people. So a murder rate of 20 / 2,200,000 * 100,000 = 0.9 per 100, 000. This is slightly lower than the murder rate in France in 2009 which was 1.1 per 100,000 people. The UK is 1.2 per 100,000. Remember the 0.9 is probably inflated by an underestimation of the trans population and I picked this year since it had the highest murder rate, and that for many other years the rate is 0.
- In the UK an average of two women a week are murdered by their partners, reported by Huffington Post, The Guardian, and the UK government.
- In France on average a women is killed by her partner every 3 days, as reported in the Figaro (article in French).
But what about Brazil? Brazil is the country with the highest number of trans murders. According to Transgender Europe, TGEU, Brazil has had 802 trans murders in the last 8 years, so on average 100 a year. This article on Vice News claims there were 144 trans murders in Brazil in 2016, they cite transrespect.org as the source of that data. But when I followed up on that site the number they actually reported was 132. Unlike Wikipedia neither of these sites name or provide references for these figures, so we’re going to have to take their word on it. But if we are willing to accept the estimates, the number of trans murders lies between 100 and 144 . In order to estimate the size of the trans population there is also some disagreement. It was thought that about 0.3% of a population are trans, although this was calculated from incomplete data and newer more exact calculations double that to be 0.6% (see here). So I will calculate a smallest and largest estimate using these numbers. The population of Brazil was 208 million in 2015 and 210 million in 2016 from the worldometers web site. Lets use 209 million, 0.3% trans would mean there are 627,000 transpeople and 0.6% would double that to 1,254,000. The lower bound can be calculated by taking the smaller estimate of the trans population and the higher estimate of the trans murders, 144 instead of 100, and it results in a murder rate of 23 murders per 100,000 people. The lower estimate can be made by taking the bigger trans population and the lower estimate of 100 for trans murders. This results in a murder rate of 8 murders per 100,000 people. The correct trans murder rate is probably between these two numbers, that is somewhere between 8 and 23 murders per 100,000 people. This is horrific, but unhappily better than members of the general population, for whom in 2015 the murder rate was estimated as somewhere between 25 to 32 (see here).
Of course it is possible that trans murders are under reported. Efforts should be made to improve recording of violence towards trans and other minority groups. But currently data that could back up the claim of epidemic violence towards transgender people just does not exist.
Finally I personally don’t believe it does transpeople any favors to misrepresent reality like this. I am sure many trans people live in fear of being victimized in part due to this propaganda. I also don’t believe such outright deceit can build true allies for trans gender people in the long run.