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VOICES

Anti-LGBT Murders Hit 13-Year High in 2011

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West Connecticut State University students hold a silent protest in March 2012 after anti-gay messages cropped up on campus.

CREDIT: flickr

More fatal hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were recorded in 2011 than in any year since the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs began collecting data in 1998.

The coalition’s most recent report [PDF], released in June, found that while hate crimes against LGBT people had decreased by about 16 percent between 2010 and 2011, there were 30 hate-motivated murders last year — more than any year on record. Hate crimes disproportionately targeted LGBT people of color, LGBT youth, and transgender women, illustrating the intersection of race, class, sexuality, and gender orientation. 

The coalition acknowledged that because the statistics are based on self-reported incidents, the actual number of anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2011 was likely higher than the 2,092 cases listed in the report. Self-reporting aside, the numbers are troubling—87 percent of the murder victims were people of color, and 40 percent were transgender women. Although non-transgender LGB individuals are more likely to report being targeted, transgender women are overrepresented among victims of the hate crimes — and crimes against them are more likely to be fatal. 

Other trends in anti-LGBT violence demonstrate the continuing victimization of sex workers, with about one in five murders associated with sex work — often a last recourse for transgender women and gay men desperate to make ends meet. The criminalization of sex work dovetails unpleasantly with the fact that almost 10 percent of respondents, overall, said their abuse had come at the hands of the police.

Most offenders of these violent hate crimes are white men, which for some suggests when it comes to meting out justice for survivors of anti-LGBT violence, the scale tend to tip in favor of those who best prescribe to the status quo.

CeCe McDonald, a young, black transgender student who survived a hate crime, but because her cisgender male attacker did not she was forced to accept a plea deal and now faces almost certain sexual violence in a Minnesota men’s prison. Without fighting back, her life could have easily brought the number of transgender women murdered to 13.

Along with the overall downtick in violence, there are some other noteworthy good signs in the somber report: despite the unprecedented high number of murders, the coalition has seen a trend toward less extreme violence. In 2011, the most reported form of violence was discrimination.

But for communities of color, youth, and transgender people, the world remains dangerous. Police violence and profiling only serves to reinforce pervasive harassment, discrimination, and violent assaults, and the combination of poverty, race, and LGBT identity remain strong predictors of often-lethal violent crime; all startling signifiers of what the organization calls a ‘public health crisis’:

In addition to supporting comprehensive LGBTQH hate violence prevention initiatives; the Department of Health and other governmental agencies should identify violence against transgender women of color, transgender women, and LGBTQH people of color as a public health crisis to address the disproportionate violence against these communities. Governmental agencies should support programs to raise awareness about this violence and campaigns to end it such as funding for community based organizations to implement organizing and public awareness campaigns to educate and mobilize their communities to prevent homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic violence.  

The National Coalition of Violence Programs believes that only a multi-pronged approach, with legislative intervention to end discrimination, anti-bullying programs in schools, social services like employment programs, and community organizing to support LGBT people will have any penetrating affect on rubbing out the rash of LGBT-targeted hate crimes.

As the LGBT community finishes celebrating Pride month, there are at least 30 voices missing — a sad sign of the liberation yet to come. 

Shay O'Reilly is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @shaygabriel.

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