On July 30th, a 15-year old trans girl was stabbed on a metro platform in Washington, D.C.
Though it has not yet been formally designated a hate crime, given the facts surrounding the incident, it seems clear that this young girl was attacked because of her gender identity. This is sadly the case for most violence against trans people, particularly trans women of color. While the victim of this horrendous crime is fortunately in stable condition, this is not the case for many of our sisters impacted by anti-trans violence. This week’s attack is the latest in a spate of attacksthat have claimedthe lives of too many transgender women of color, and more must be done to protect against this devastating violence.
In 2013, NCLR worked closely with Congress and the administration to reauthorize VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act, with the addition of explicit protections for LGBTQ victims of violence. This was a huge victory that, among other things, prohibits discrimination against transgender women seeking resources after domestic and intimate partner violence, including access to shelters. Discrimination against transgender women in services authorized by VAWA has been one of the most significant barriers to supporting victims of domestic and intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community, and this crucial victory helps us to provide support and resources to those women who are at highest risk for this violence.
There have been several recent policy victories that will extend significant non-discrimination protections to transgender and gender nonconforming people. USDA published a new rule prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in all USDA-conducted programs and has partnered with NCLR on an outreach campaign to raise awareness of the needs of LGBTQ rural people. The Department of Labor recently issued guidance clarifying that discrimination based on gender identity is prohibited in DOL programs, including Job Corps and American Job Centers.
Unfortunately, these victories come in the midst of continued hate crimes and violence targeting and claiming the lives of young transgender women of color. This is not happening in a vacuum, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of violence directed at the LGBTQ community is targeting transgender women of color shows us how much more work must be done, not just for LGBTQ equality, but for racial justice, women’s equality, economic justice, immigrant rights, and for all the other intersections of the lives of these women. Legislation like VAWA is crucial, but in addition to support services, we need to dismantle the culture of violence that surrounds the lives of transgender women of color and undermine the chilling dehumanization that too often plays into these attacks. Legislative victories like these must be treated as a covenant with the next generation of transgender girls that we will work to ensure they are given the opportunity to grow into women without fear of violence or discrimination.
We must create a culture where transgender women of color are made to feel safe being who they are. In order to do this, we must speak out against voices that seek to misgender trans women and separate them from our communities. We must be vigilant against transphobia in our social networks, in our friend groups, and in our own language and lives.
NCLR believes that our greatest responsibility is to the most marginalized members of our community. We will continue to fight for the liberation of our entire community until we can all walk down the street, parent our children, go to work, and hold hands in public without fear of violence or discrimination. We must seek not simply equal rights, but the societal understanding that leads to the celebration of our love, of our differences, and of our lives.