Historic Congressional Forum Addresses Transgender Violence

by Alison Amyx

In an important step towards ending violence against trans people, the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus hosted a forum this Tuesday that brought together advocates and community leaders, including Harper Jean Tobin, the Policy Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE).

NCTE joined fellow LGBT activists and advocates to discuss how to address soaring levels of violence against trans people.

The two panels were chaired by Representative Mark Takano and Representative Mike Honda. Rep. Honda is also the chairman of the newly-launched congressional Transgender Equality Task Force.
This year, there have been more murders of trans people than any other year the homicide rate has been recorded, with at least 21 reported murders of transgender women, most of whom are transgender women of color. This year has also witnessed a significant spike in reported non-lethal anti-trans violence, often resulting from intimate partner violence, and suicides.

At the hearing, advocates shared the traumatic impact of violence on the trans community.

They urged lawmakers to address the critical problems that make trans people, and especially trans women of color, more vulnerable to violence, such as racism, poverty and the systemic marginalization of trans people, including discrimination in schools, jobs and housing.

Many trans people at risk of violence avoid seeking needed protection as a result of ongoing police abuse, mistreatment and profiling of trans women of color. Advocates also discussed the disproportionate impact of state-sanctioned violence, including violence in the criminal justice system and immigration detention.

Advocates stressed the importance of comprehensive nondiscrimination protections and immigration and criminal justice reform in abating the violence and dehumanization many trans people face.

Advocates also urged lawmakers to improve the collection of data on trans people.

The countless experiences that our community has shared vividly illustrate the gravity of the crisis, but in the absence of nationwide data and widespread underreporting of anti-trans violence, our knowledge only scratches the surface. With enhanced data collection, we can better understand the scope and causes of violence.

This forum was an important step that can raise awareness and lay the groundwork for comprehensive nondiscrimination protections and future concrete action by Congress.

To read Harper Jean Tobin’s testimony, click here.

Photo via flickr user Photo Phiend