Alex Blaze

Trans hate crimes up in 2009

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 23, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: brazil, gender, hate crimes against LGBT people, hate crimes legislation, liminalis, maps, murder, sexuality, transgender, Venezuela

The German sex and gender journal Liminalis published this map as part of their project to follow transgender murders throughout the world in 2009. More information behind the numbers and the journal's methodology can be found in their report (pdf).

liminalis map.JPG

The study found that a trans murder is reported every three days somewhere in the world. Here are some important facts from the article:

  • The report shows an increase in the number of trans murders reported. This can be partly attributed to increased reporting.
  • The numbers are likely much lower than reality:

    Firstly, the collected data shows only those cases which have been reported. There is no data and no estimates available for the unreported cases. GGB, which has an almost 30 year experience in reporting murders of LGBT people in Brazil and annually creates one of the most comprehensive and detailed reports worldwide, declares, that its reports do not represent the true figures, which must be much higher, because their report data is based on newspaper and internet articles, there being no Governmental statistics on hate crimes.16

    Secondly, the data presented here does not show all reported cases worldwide, but only most of those, which can only be found on the Internet with some effort. Reports from local newspapers which have no web page are also missing.

    Thirdly, because of the dozens of languages used in the Internet, the diversity of terms denominating trans people, and the myriad of web pages in the World Wide Web to date it is simply not possible to find all reports shown on the Internet with the limited resources of a NGO like TGEU.

    Fourthly, there is a specific problem regarding the reporting of murdered trans persons. Not all trans people that are murdered are reported as trans. Depending on the nowledge and perspective of the person reporting the crime, murdered trans people are sometimes reported as men or women, or as lesbians or gays. This problem has been known among trans activists for some considerable time. When I was doing research in the trans communities of Rio de Janeiro from 2000 to 2001, a trans activist told me that some of the trans people that were murdered at that time in Rio de Janeiro were not reported in the newspapers or were reported as homosexuals as was often the case in the past.17 A very recent example of the central problem in reporting murders of trans people occurred in the context of the enormous increase of violence against LGBT people in Iraq since the issue of a fatwa against homosexuals in 2005.18 A report published in April 2009 says that there have been "63 more murders of gay people in Iraq just since December [2008] bringing to nearly 600 the number of cases of LGBT Iraqis killed for their sexuality [since 2005]".19 How many of these 600 LGBT people or of these 60 gay people are trans people is not reported. A New York Times article stated at the same time that in February and March 2009 "as many as 25 boys and men suspected of being gay" have been found murdered in Sadr City, Iraq, several with the word "pervert" in Arabic on notes attached to their bodies. The authors cite a witness, "who preferred to be called "Basima" - the feminine version of his [sic!] name" and state about another witness "a man named Sa'ad, who has been taking estrogen and has developed small breasts".20


  • Sex workers are particularly at risk:

    The preliminary results of the monitoring and research project regarding the 2008 reports show that 82% of the murdered trans persons earned their living as sex workers, and 55% of the trans persons were murdered in the street; regarding the 2009 reports they show that 53% earned their living as sex workers, and 45% of the trans persons were murdered in the street.27 These are worldwide figures that do not only refer to Latin America (see Tables 2008 and Tables 2009). In fact in some reports of murdered trans people from the U.S.A. and in reports from some European countries (e.g. Germany, Spain, Portugal) the victims were also described as sex workers. My comparative study on trans people in Rio de Janeiro, New York City, and Berlin has shown that the vast majority of trans people that engage in sex work in Rio de Janeiro and New York City do so out of economic necessity and desperation.28 To a lesser degree and especially for trans people with migration background the necessity to earn one's living as a sex worker is true for some European countries, too.29 In January 2009, Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, declared: "Data presented by EU's Fundamental Rights Agency shows that in some countries the unemployment rate of transgender persons can reach up to 50%. Some jobless transgender persons are unable to find employment, and see no other option but to work in the sex industry. A report from Human Rights Watch on Turkey called attention to the situation of transgender sex workers in that country - victimised by violence, drug addiction, sexual abuse, lack of health insurance, homelessness, police attacks, and a high risk of HIV/AIDS."30


  • The top three countries, Brazil, the US, and Venezuela, have no national transgender hate crimes legislation.

These numbers help prove a point that this violence does occur throughout the world, but I wouldn't rely on comparisons between countries and the exactness of these numbers because of the large impediments, described above, to doing a study like this.


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At least a Federal Hate Crimes Act(sans enhanced sentencing) might give us better figures that we can obtain now...

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 23, 2009 7:31 PM

Alex, thanks for writing about this, but to tell the truth, I had to skim it...most days, if I actually take in how widespread and persistent hatred and violence against trans folks is, I'd be too freaked out to leave the house.

I'm surprised I haven't heard more about this study, and I think it just hits people a little close to home.

The physical violence against transgender and transsexual people is bad enough--being murdered with violence even law enforcement personnel describe as "excessive"--but after death to be described by our birth-assigned sex and gender and/or to be described as gay finishes the repudiation and erasure.

The obsession too many--including in the GL communities--have with sex and sexuality merges seamlessly with the wider cis community's belief that ALL is reducible to sexual orientation.

Witness Blanchard, Zucker, Bailey. Witness our strongest fears about DSM V.

The confusion between sexual orientation and subconscious sex--subconscious sex interacts with birth-assignment and results in gender identity--is one that, among other things, results in transsexual women being subject to homophobic slurs, i.e., we are only gay men in denial.

It simply does no one--certainly not transsexual women--any good to defend the perpetrators of this violence by saying they don't know the difference and there is no need to pursue the struggle to differentiate our identities.

Identity is the key.

The conflating of transsexual people with transgender is a contributor to this confusion.

Arguments that have force in Canada now make the case that gender non-conformity is part of "all things associated" with homosexuality. So, if transsexual people are just a subset of transgender people then, well, we must be gay, too, and this confusion is justified.

The principled response to violence is not to simply say we must all adopt one single identity so that cis people will not be confused simply feeds the confusion.

When we work together to end violence against not only all LGBT people, but also those marginalized by race, class, age, dis/ability--all the categories of oppression and privilege--we must work in alliance, a coalition, not subject to an enforced identity, which is the only model we have ever seen.

To make a future different from the past requires doing what we do differently.

It is a sign of madness--of supporting our own marginalization--to expect that doing the same things we will have a different result.