Politics

Jen Psaki calls the record number of trans people murdered in 2021 so far “devastating”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pauses for a moment as she addresses reporters on Thursday, April 15, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)
White House Press Secretary Jen PsakiPhoto: White House

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has condemned violence against trans and gender non-conforming people, which reached a reported level high this week.

In response to the news that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has recorded at least 45 victims to anti-trans violence so far in 2021 — the most the organization has tracked in one year — Psaki pledged she’ll ask President Joe Biden and the White House’s Domestic Policy Council what they will do to address the problem.

Related: Dems demand Biden lift order forbidding embassy staff from talking about same-sex marriage

Washington Blade White House Correspondent Chris Johnson asked Psaki about anti-trans violence at yesterday’s White House Press Briefing, her first behind the podium since she recovered from a breakthrough case of coronavirus and quarantined.

“With the Transgender Day of Remembrance fast approaching, 2021… has the highest number of recorded deaths of transgender and non-binary people, totaling out at 45 this year,” Johnson asked. “The President brought attention to this issue as a candidate, but has he been briefed on it… in the White House?”

Psaki responded by saying she’s “not sure” if President Biden has been briefed, but she will make sure it is bought to his attention.

“I’m happy to ask the President and see with our domestic policy team if they have briefed him on that,” she said.

Then, Psaki responded to the revelation herself, adding, “That’s devastating, and that’s terrible and heartbreaking to hear. It is a commitment of the President to address violence, address threats to transgender people and anyone who’s facing those threats.”

She once again pledged that she “will see if he has been briefed on that.”

Johnson then asked a follow-up question, inquiring “What options are on the table for [Biden] to pursue on this issue?”

Psaki told Johnson that she would like to see if Biden had been briefed on the issue before offering any specific solutions “in terms of reducing violence.”

She once again pledged to also “talk to our domestic policy team and maybe… get more information” about their planned response.

Biden regularly spoke out against anti-trans violence while campaigning for President in 2020, and he directly blamed violence in previous years on the Trump administration in 2019. “The fastest way to end it is to end the Trump administration,” he said at a HRC event at the time.

While the Biden-Harris administration has taken several steps towards fulfilling their pledge to have the “most pro-equality administration in history,” their efforts have been met by a record level of anti-trans legislation proposals, and a record amount of them have passed state legislatures.

The White House Domestic Policy Council, led by Ambassador Susan Rice, has yet to publicly issue a response or acknowledgement.

The record for murders and violent deaths as counted by HRC — surpassing last calendar year’s record — was set this week with the death of Marquiisha Lawrence. Lawrence, a 28-year old Black trans woman from South Carolina, is at least the 45th victim of anti-trans violence in 2021.

Lawrence was also known as “Quii” and “Queet,” and as a “very humbled, free thinker who was loved by many.” She was remembered by her trans mother Eboni Sinclaire as “a young trans woman, at the beginning of this game called life, as WE know it in the trans community.”

Instead, she “like so many who have gone before her, fell victim to a senseless murder,” Sinclaire mourned.

Despite that and Lawrence identifying as a woman on her own social media, she was still reported as a “man” and deadnamed by the office of Greenville County Coroner, Bobby Park Evans, and subsequently in reports by local media publications.

“Marquiisha was clearly loved by so many. She deserved to live, but her life was stolen from us far too soon,” Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement recognizing Lawrence’s death.

“Each of these 45 names represents a whole person and a rich life torn from us by senseless violence, driven by bigotry and transphobia and stoked by people who hate and fear transgender people and the richness of their experience,” HRC president Joni Madison said in another statement recognizing the record-setting amount of deaths.

Madison points to the normalization of “dehumanizing rhetoric” and the “unprecedented number of bills introduced in state legislatures attacking transgender youth and trans adults.” HRC also determined this calendar year has had the most anti-trans legislation passed or proposed in recorded American history.

Black trans woman’s “senseless” murder sets record for anti-trans violence in one year

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