Tragic figures confirm most dangerous place to be trans as 2021 becomes deadliest year on record

·4-min read

2021 is set to be the deadliest year for fatal violence against trans people since global record-keeping began, tragic figures show.

Between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021, at least 375 trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming people were slain across the world.

One in four trans people murdered globally were killed in their own home, according to data compiled by the Transrespect versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvTW), a Transgender Europe project.

The report stands as the official word on a truly grisly year, detailing a daunting, years-long rise in murders against trans people by seven per cent, compared to the same time period last year.

Released ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance, held 20 November, the report found that 70 per cent of the documented murders happened in Central and South America.

Brazil remains the most dangerous place to be trans in the world, with the majority of the murders – 125 – taking place there.

Cases in Greece, Malawi and Kazakhstan were also reported for the first time.

The data paints a haunting look at what it means to be trans today and the heightened risk certain groups face. On average, trans homicide victims were 31 years old – the youngest was just 15.

Of the hundreds killed, more than one in two were sex workers. And signalling the extent that misogyny exacerbates such hostility, 96 per cent of victims were trans women or transfemminine people.

More than half (58 per cent) of those murdered were sex workers, and four in 10 were European migrants.

In the US, the report captured how racism compounds the discrimination trans people, trans Black women, face in particular. People of colour make up 89 per cent of the 53 trans people slain in the US during the period.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the annual murder rate for Americans aged between 15 and 34 is about one in 12,000.

For Black trans women in the exact same age group, the rate rockets to one in 2,600, an investigation by Mic found. If in 2015 all Americans had the same risk of murder as Black trans women, there would have been 120,087 slain instead of 15,696,

Global death tally for trans folk is likely even higher, say activists

But the report’s authors noted that their numbers are incomplete and the full death toll can be nearly impossible to determine. The figure of 375 lives lost, already dizzying in its height, almost certainly still understates the problem.

Indeed, tracking cases of violence against trans people is a difficult task, the report authors note, one often ignored by law enforcement agencies and public officials.

Police and press reports often misgender and deadname victims, making it challenging to know that a homicide victim was trans.

Advocacy groups, such as TvTW, are often left to rummage through local news reports and reach out to victims’ loved ones to verify a victim’s identity.

“These numbers are just a small glimpse of the reality on the ground,” the TvTW report authors wrote.

“The majority of the data was collected from countries with an established network of trans and LGBTIQ organisations that conduct the monitoring. In most countries, data is not systematically collected.

“Most cases continue to go unreported and, when reported, receive very little attention.”

Protesters hold candles during a vigil inside the campus of the state university in Manila on October 24, 2014, to coincide with the burial of murdered transgender woman, Jennifer Laude. (TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesters hold candles during a vigil inside the campus of the state university in Manila on October 24, 2014, to coincide with the burial of murdered transgender woman, Jennifer Laude. (TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

The spate of killings has once again confirmed suspicions long held to be true – that anti-trans hostility is on the rise.

Other groups that seek to document the killings, such as Transgender Day of Remembrance, the Transgender Law Center, Sin Violencia LGBTI and the Human Rights Campaign may hold different tallies, but the trend more often than not holds.

Even within TvTW’s own figures, many are not included in the global list. There remain countless unverified cases where causes of death remain unknown, and many crimes go unreported altogether.

Since the project began 13 years ago, they have recorded 4,039 killings. The number of fatalities has risen year-on-year from 2019’s 331 and 2020’s 350 to 375 in 2021.

Transgender Day of Remembrance, created by activists as a resource for the global record-keeping of trans deaths, also includes death by suicide in its annual figures – it recorded more than 400 overall deaths last year.

As much as activists have sought to stress that the figures are just the “tip of the iceberg”, they note that the lives of those murdered must not be forgotten or reduced to just graphs and tables.

“Behind the statistical representation of numbers and percentages,” the TvTW report authors wrote, “there are people whose lives we value and who we, as societies, failed to protect.”

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