Despite Gains, LGBTQ Community Faces 'National Crisis of Deadly Violence'

A sign at a 2013 anti-violence rally and march in New York City. (Photo: Michael Fleshman/flickr/cc)

Despite Gains, LGBTQ Community Faces 'National Crisis of Deadly Violence'

'The right to live free from violence and state-sanctioned discrimination is not yet a guarantee for many in the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities.'

Even in a year where the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities witnessed greater awareness around and organizing against discrimination, the "national crisis of deadly violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people of color continued in 2014," according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), which released its annual report this week.

The coalition, which works to prevent, respond to, and end all forms of violence against and within LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, notes that 2014--which saw Laverne Cox on the cover of Time magazine, same-sex marriage wins across the country, and a central role for LGBTQ communities in the national struggle against police violence--was a "tumultuous year."

Drawing on data collected from 16 anti-violence programs in 14 states, the coalition's survey (pdf) found that 2014 "was a deadly year for LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities with 20 documented homicides, an 11.11 percent increase from the 18 homicides in 2013 and among the highest number of homicides since NCAVP started tracking this information."

Further, the report shows that "deadly violence against people of color, transgender, and gender non-conforming people remains alarmingly high."

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As Christopher Argyros from the Los Angeles LGBT Center said, "In 2014 in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas alone, we lost three transgender women to deadly hate violence. Aniya Parker, Zoraida Reyes, and Deshawnda Sanchez are representative of the fatal violence that transgender women of color continue to experience in our country and around the world. Their lives deserve national action to end hate violence."

The coalition did find that overall reports of anti-LGBTQ and HIV-affected hate violence to NCAVP member programs decreased significantly from 2013 to 2014, but cautioned against knee-jerk interpretations of that data. Instead, NCAVP attributes the decline in part to a lack of high profile incidents--and, therefore, decreased public awareness about violence and reporting in general--as well as a reduction in outreach staffing at the LA LGBT Center in 2014, contributing to this area's decrease in reports of incidents of violence.

"This decrease should not be an indication that anti-LGBTQ hate violence is declining," said Chai Jindasurat, co-director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. "In fact it should be call to action for policymakers, funders, and service providers to increase funding, legislation, public awareness and outreach that encourages reporting of hate violence incidents and promotes safety for LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities."

In conclusion, the NCAVP survey notes that while high-profile policy gains, such as marriage equality, should be celebrated, fundamental issues remain unaddressed--and to do so requires an intersectional approach:

Same-sex marriage became legal in 18 more states in 2014. Marriage equality is a critical and important issue for many LGBTQ people. However, it is imperative that the fundamental rights of LGBTQ communities are addressed concurrently with the fight for same-sex marriage. There is a long way to go to secure the right to safety, equal employment, healthcare, housing, education, and access to resources for LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities. The right to live free from hate violence, police violence, and state-sanctioned discrimination is not yet a guarantee for many in the LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities. Those within the LGBTQ communities that live at the intersection of other marginalized identities continue to face disproportionate violence and discrimination-justice and equality for LGBTQ communities are innately connected to issues affecting communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income communities, people with disabilities, and any others that face oppression through a history of systemic and structural barriers.

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