It's been described as a national crisis—yet it's an issue that's rarely the focus of national media attention.
That issue is anti-transgender violence, and a new report out from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation and the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) notes a disturbing record—in 2015, the number of victims of transgender fatal violence in the U.S. hit a record high—21.
There were 13 such murders in 2014, and 19 in 2013. 87 percent of those victims were people of color. The victims, who are disproportionately trans women of color, "are more than alarming statistics. They were human beings with friends and loved ones," the report stresses.
The total toll may even be higher, as the "lack of accurate and reliable data collection makes it impossible for advocates to know how widespread this violence really is."
The report also documents the litany of struggles, abuses, and marginalization transgender people often face, including widespread harassment, sexual assault, partner violence, problems accessing proper healthcare, and denial of safety nets.
"There are now more transgender homicide victims in 2015 than in any other year that advocates have recorded. At least 21 people—nearly all of them transgender women of color—have lost their lives to violence," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a media statement.
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"This kind of violence is often motivated by anti-transgender bias; but that is rarely the only factor. At a time when transgender people are finally gaining visibility and activists are forcing our country to confront systemic violence against people of color, transgender women of color are facing an epidemic of violence that occurs at the intersections of racism, sexism and transphobia—issues that advocates can no longer afford to address separately," Griffin stated.
Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and AIDS Project, spoke to Democracy Now! in August, when the number of transgender women killed in the year totaled 17, and said that the violence against transgender people is "systemic and it is institutional."
"This is a state of emergency for the transgender community. And it’s a state of emergency that’s disproportionately affecting transgender women of color, and particularly black trans women. And we are living in a moment where we should be incredibly concerned about all of the mechanisms of violence against our community," he said.
The new report was issued just days ahead of Congress' first-ever forum on violence against transgender people.
"This week, as we seek to raise awareness of the issues facing the trans community, it is important to renew our commitment to help trans individuals be free of the fear of violence or bullying just for being who they are," said California Rep. Mike Honda, who is to chair a task force on transgender equality.
"It is my hope that by launching this workforce and holding a first-ever forum, we will reach some of my colleagues and encourage them to stand with the trans community," Honda said. "It is only through social change that we can truly elevate the conversation in this country and reach a place of true understanding and embrace all people for who they are."