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‘Unerased:’ New database tracks America’s epidemic of transgender murders

‘Unerased:’ New database tracks America’s epidemic of transgender murders
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A team of reporters at the millennial-focused news site Mic have compiled “Unerased,” a sorely needed, comprehensive resource to convey the very real danger of being transgender in America. It’s being touted as an “unprecedented” database of trans-related homicides across the U.S., dating back to 2010. “Unerased” is more than just a bunch of numbers. With a click, readers can learn about Devin Diamond, Crystal Edmonds, Jessie Hernandez, Monica Loera, Evon Young, Lorena Escalera, Cassidy Vickers and more than 100 more. A self-guided tour of the database yields more than names, numbers, their stories and statistics. The sad, significant and stark reality that emerges from the photographs is that the vast majority of these victims were trans women of color.
Working with the New York City Anti-Violence Project, transgender advocacy organizations, activists, academics and the loved ones and friends of victims, the Mic journalists gathered a wealth of demographic, multimedia and biographical information that the website has posted online for the world to see. While intended to help academics, journalists and transgender activists, this tool could also become a powerful change engine for allies of the trans community to use in advocating for civil rights protections and a greater commitment from law enforcement. But the “Unerased” database is just the beginning, according to Mic. In addition to making a commitment to continuously update and expand its collection of information, the editors tasked esteemed journalist and contributing editor Meredith Talusan with the job of investigating the epidemic that, to date, has claimed at least 111 transgender and gender-nonconforming Americans. In addition to leading the team, Talusan’s task was to explore why the victims’ gender identities cost them their lives, learn who they were, and try to understand and explain why the problem is only growing worse each passing year. “In reporting this story and speaking with family members of transgender homicide victims, we focused on bringing light to the systematic failures impacting trans people, especially trans women of color,” said Talusan in a statement emailed to LGBTQNation. “If everyone in the U.S. were murdered at the rate young black trans women and femmes are, there’s no doubt that the public would consider this a crisis of massive proportions.” Consider the numbers: of those 111 victims over six years, Mic says it found 75% of them were black trans women and gender-nonconforming femmes, who don’t identify as male or female and present as feminine. Citing numbers from the NCAVP, Talusan wrote that “no group under the LGBTQ umbrella faces more violence than transgender people, who accounted for 67% of the hate-related homicides against queer people in 2015.”

Mic included this map in Talusan’s investigative report showing the concentrations of transgender murders across the United States:


Her findings also include some grim statistics:

“With 23 documented cases so far, 2016 has seen one of the the highest number of transgender homicides since advocacy organizations began tracking them officially in 2010.

“Black transgender women face the highest rates of violence: 72% of transgender victims between 2010 to 2016 are black trans women.

“Young black trans women (ages 15 to 34) are estimated to be between 8 and 39 times more likely to be murdered as young cisgender women.”

So why is this an epidemic? Why can’t police just step up and solve these crimes? Talusan found it goes beyond individual law enforcement agencies and departments and uncovered a systemic predicament:

  • Too many public institutions won’t acknowledge or know how to even address the existence of transgender Americans.
  • The transgender identities of these victims are often erased after death.
  • Many trans people can’t spare the extraordinary expense of changing their legal names and getting their gender markers updated on government identifications and documents.
  • Police officers, detectives, their superiors and medical examiners are not trained to identify crime victims as transgender.
  • Immediate family members who refused to accept a trans person’s gender identity when they are alive often withhold it from authorities upon that person’s death, and in turn the authorities defer to the family’s preferences.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau has still not begun to count transgender Americans.
  • Although the FBI added gender identity as a category in its 2014 annual hate crimes report, gender identity is not tracked along with other self-reported homicide statistics.

To view and explore the database, click here. 

To read Talusan’s investigation, “Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives,” which features so many moving and intimate stories of the victims of transgender violence and the aftermath of their murders, click here.

Mic also published a video to accompany its report, click below to watch it via YouTube.

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