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Unveiling the Truth: Transgender Violence and the Quest for Equitable Protections in the USA's Red and Blue States


Following our blogs focused on Africa and South America, this week’s entry – written by ReportOUT Human Rights Researcher, Jessica Peck, focuses on the USA.   Whilst the overall virulent persecution of the trans community is well publicised, Jessica highlights that frequencies of attacks do not differ widely between so-called ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states and considers what those concerned can do to impact meaningful policy change. 


Violence against transgender men and women in the United States is at an all-time high. With political discourse increasing in the US in election year, there are discussions and concerns about the protection of transgender individuals and their rights throughout the country, with the primary focus landing on red states. Although the discourse in red states is more apparent, it is crucial to highlight these issues and their occurrence in blue states as well.


There is a common misconception that transgendered violence is more likely to occur in red states primarily due to the anti-transgender beliefs widely held by Republicans (Bradner, Contorno, and Sullivan, 2023).

With this, I had always believed that blue states would be a safer place for transgender individuals to live; however, the statistics that I found on this topic were shocking.  

 

In order to better understand the statistics around transgender violence in the US, I analyzed a 2023 report by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) which detailed the murders of transgender and gender-expansive individuals. It should be noted that for this study, I focused solely on transgender individuals for the sake of consistency, clarity, and more accurate results; I did not include gender-expansive individuals in the data. I noted the state where each transgender individual was murdered, took this data, and compared it to the 2020 Presidential election results map in order to understand how many murders occurred in red states and how many occurred in blue states.  


A Nationwide Challenge 

 

Out of the 24 transgender individuals murdered in this article, I discovered that 11 of these murders occurred in red states (about 45.83%) and 13 murders occurred in blue states (around 54.16%) (HRC, 2023).


This shocking discovery indicates that while red states are typically considered to be the most dangerous for transgendered individuals, blue states pose an even greater threat.

In order to fight such violence against transgender individuals, we should focus on advocating for transgender rights nationwide rather than focusing only on red states.  

 

Since 2009, transgendered individuals have been safeguarded against hate crimes under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This act was passed as a US federal law (Civil Rights Division - U.S. Department of Justice, 2023). Under this act, it is stated that individuals will be protected based on hate crimes committed based on the individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity (Civil Rights Division - U.S. Department of Justice, 2023).  

 

One might believe that this act would further protect transgender individuals from being victims of hate crimes in the US. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Although the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes and Prevention Act federally protects against these characteristics from discrimination, it is important to note that not all individual state hate crime laws have protections against transgendered based crimes. For instance, 22 states and Washington, D.C. include sexual orientation and gender identity as being protected. However, 29 states either do not protect specifically against gender identity or do not protect against sexual orientation at all (Movement Advancement Project, 2024).  

 

I compared these facts with the data that I pulled from the HRC article. When compared with this data, it was found that based on a 2024 map of hate crime laws in place across the US, 4.16% of these crimes occurred in states where there were no hate crime law protection, 16.67% occurred in states where existing hate crime law does protect against sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, 29.16% occurred in states where only sexual orientation was protected, and the remaining 50% occurred in states where both sexual orientation and gender identity was protected (HRC, 2023; Movement Advancement Project, 2024).  

 

A Little Respect 

 

In order to protect transgender individuals in states where protection does and does not exist, it is important to take extra steps in order to provide an added level of protection from these individuals. In addition, it is also vital for these individuals’ identities to be protected. For example, it was noted that during the reporting of these murders, around 50% of these individuals were deadnamed or misgendered either by authorities or the press (HRC, 2023). This only further puts the transgender community in danger because this shows a lack of respect towards the community and teaches other individuals that this type of behavior is okay, further perpetuating the issue.  


Taking the necessary steps to ensure enhanced protection of transgender individuals is key to diminishing violence throughout the United States. Addressing transgender violence starts with accepting that all states, regardless of political affiliation, pose significant threats to transgender individuals.


Confronting transgender violence begins with addressing laws at the state level in order to ensure more consistent protections.  

 

I urge those who strive to have better protections of transgender rights in the US to call or email their US state senator’s office and express their grievances with both the tragic murders of these individuals, as well as the upset at the laws currently in place regarding the protection of transgender rights. The link for these resources can be found at https://www.270towin.com/elected-officials/contact-us-senators/.  

 

 Article By Jessica Peck


Bibliography  


Bradner, E., Contorno, S., and Sullivan, K. (2023). Republicans ramp up attacks on transgender people, in statehouses and on the campaign trail. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2023/04/30/politics/republicans-transgender-attacks-statehouse-h aley-trump/index.html  


HRC (2023). Fatal Violence Against the Transgender and Gender-Expansive Community in 2023. Available at:  


Movement Advancement Project (2024). Hate Crime Laws. Available at: https://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/hate_crime_laws  


270 to Win (2024). Contact Information for U.S. Senators. Available at: https://www.270towin.com/elected-officials/contact-us-senators/  


Civil Rights Division - U.S. Department of Justice (2023). The Matthew Shepard And James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act Of 2009. Available at: https://www.justice.gov/crt/matthew-shepard-and-james-byrd-jr-hate-crimes-prevention-a ct-2009-0  

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