Violence towards transgender people has increased dramatically, study finds

Murders of transgender people have spiked recently, as anti-trans hate speech has worsened

Published October 19, 2022 6:30AM (EDT)

A trans rights protester stands outside of Boston Childrens Hospital to face off with anti-trans protesters across the street. (Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
A trans rights protester stands outside of Boston Childrens Hospital to face off with anti-trans protesters across the street. (Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The ongoing right-wing culture war against transgender people paints them as threatening to those who aren't trans. Yet scientific studies overwhelmingly show that the opposite is true, meaning that cisgender individuals are quite a threat to them.

There has been plenty of previous research on emotional distress in trans people, which is perpetuated by transphobic attitudes (a recent study found that 82% of trans people have considered suicide and 40% have attempted it, although trans people who receive gender-affirming surgeries have reduced suicide rates). Yet beyond the mere emotional, physical violence against transgender people is a real and present danger, research attest.

"Bias-motivated crimes based on race, religion, nationality, disability, and gender remain at troublingly high levels, and LGBTQ+ people hold many of these identities as well."

Hence, a recent study by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund — an organization that monitors gun violence — has added its own contribution to the growing body of literature on anti-trans violence. Specifically, the authors found that homicides against transgender people almost doubled between 2017 and 2021, with crimes involving firearms fueling that trend.

There were 29 known killings of transgender people in 2017 and 56 in 2021, with 73% of the people in the latter category being murdered with a firearm.

The authors also noted that Black transgender women were killed at disproportionately high rates, with 73% of the tracked homicides between 2017 and 2021 having Black trans women as victims — even though they only comprise 13% of the total transgender population.

The study's authors framed their research as part of the broader problem of firearm-driven hateful violence in America.

"On an average day there are 69 hate crimes with a firearm, accounting for 4 percent of all hate crimes," the authors write. "It's not only the LGBTQ+ community that is affected by hate-fueled violence. Bias-motivated crimes based on race, religion, nationality, disability, and gender remain at troublingly high levels, and LGBTQ+ people hold many of these identities as well."


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Speaking with Salon by email, the Intelligence Project researchers from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) explained how they have found 65 active anti-LGBTQ hate groups in the United States as of 2021, a number that has increased steadily over the past decade including a peak in 2019 of 70 active anti-LGBTQ hate groups.

"In a recent study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Tulchin Research to examine the extent to which the extremist beliefs and narratives that mobilize the hard right have been absorbed by the wider American public, we found concerning trends with regards to anti-LGBTQ sentiments," the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told Salon. "In the study, the 1,500 respondents were asked if they believe 'gender ideology has corrupted American culture.' The term 'gender ideology' is widespread on the right, and generally refers to a belief that LGBTQ people are a threat to children and families and that men and women should adhere to 'traditional' notions of masculinity and femininity."

The SPLC also drew a direct line between trends toward transphobic violence and anti-trans policies such as the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill pushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The SPLC/Tulchin Research study found that 34% of Democrats, 72% of Republicans, and 45% of Independents agreed with this anti-LGBTQ position. They also found that 41% of Republicans, 34% of Democrats and 29% of independents agreed with the statement that "some violence might be necessary to protect the country from radical extremists."

The SPLC also drew a direct line between trends toward transphobic violence and anti-trans policies such as the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill pushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a widely perceived frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

"Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' press secretary Christina Pushaw declared in a tweet defending the bill that it was an 'anti-grooming bill,'" the SPLC pointed out, referring to a common criminal designation that is also used to slur LGBTQ people. They noted that the term "grooming" has "exploded online as a new anti-gay slur seeing a 400% increase, even inspiring protests and an uptick in anti-LGBTQ violence, which appears to have stemmed from the rising tide of anti-LGBTQ legislations. Florida has also adopted a policy to deny both Trans youth and adults coverage for gender affirming care through Medicaid. In September, the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida in Gainesville was vandalized in what local police have defined as a hate crime."

Anti-trans violence is hardly limited to the United States, with a recent study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence finding that anti-trans violence is also a significant problem in the Latin American country of Colombia. Likewise, Russia has seen an increase in attacks on LGBT people since 2013, when the country passed a law that outlawed the distribution of information about LGBT relationships to children, according to the NGO Human Rights Watch.


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Civil Rights Gun Violence Lgbtq Ron Desantis Studies Transgender