The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs on Thursday reported that the number of anti-LGBT murders in 2011 rose 11 percent from the previous year.
The NCAVP’s annual report documents 30 anti-LGBT homicides across the county. While it showed that incidents of anti-LGBT hate violence decreased 16 percent from 2010, the number of anti-LGBT murders in 2011 is the highest that the agency has documented since it began to issue it began to issue its annual report in 1996.
“It’s definitely shocking to see the increase in the number of murders,” said Hassan Naveed, vice chair of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence in the District of Columbia.
NCAVP further noted that 87 percent of the 30 anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2011 were LGBT people of color—trans women comprised 40 percent of those who lost their lives to anti-LGBT bias-motivated crimes.
Anti-violence advocates maintain a lack of housing, employment and legal protections leave trans people particularly vulnerable to bias-motived crimes.
A 2011 National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force survey found that nearly a fifth of respondents said they had been homeless at some point in their lives because of their gender identity and expression. The report further indicated that rates of unemployment among trans and gender non-conforming people are twice as high—and four times as high among trans people of color—than the national average. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said they experienced what NCTE and the Task Force described as “a serious act of discrimination” in employment, education, the health and legal system and in other areas.
DeeDee Pearson was a trans black woman who was killed in Kansas City, Mo, last Christmas Eve. Her friend, Paige Dior, who said she has repeatedly experienced anti-trans violence herself, said Pearson “lived the street life” because she had nowhere else to go.
“Transgender people are normally rejected from their families, so we go out and create our own,” said Dior on an NCAVP conference call with reporters. “When DeeDee was killed on Christmas Eve; it was very, very devastating.”
Metropolitan Police Department statistics note that there were 43 reported bias-related crimes based on sexual orientation in the District of Columbia in 2011, compared to 35 in 2010. The MPD reported 11 anti-trans crimes in the District in 2011, compared to 10 in 2010.
Ejeris Dixon of the New York City Anti-Violence Project noted that the anti-LGBT bias-related crimes documented in the NCAVP report are only “the tip of the iceberg.” She and other anti-violence activists note that many victims remain afraid to report these attacks because of their immigration status or previous experience with law enforcement officials.
The D.C. Trans Coalition, GLOV, the Rainbow Response Coalition and other local anti-violence organizations have begun to lay the foundation for a system that would allow victims of anti-LGBT crimes to report attacks to service providers without going through the MPD. Naveed maintains this initiative would provide what he described as a far more accurate count of the number of anti-LGBT bias attacks in the city.
“The NCAVP report definitely does highlight the need of an inclusive and sensible reporting system for the LGBT community here in D.C.,” he said. “By allowing this system to come into use, we’re really going to see numbers closer to the truth here in D.C.”
Service providers in other cities have also implemented similar independent reporting mechanisms.
The Los Angeles district attorney’s office has recognized the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center as a place where victims of anti-LGBT bias crimes can come forward. The agency is then able to bypass the police and directly report these incidents to local prosecutors.
“We have been pretty successful with law enforcement so that option has not been exercised a lot, but it does exist,” noted Jake Finney of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
Equality Michigan also offers victims of anti-LGBT crimes the option to report attacks through the Internet or their hotline. Nusrat Ventimiglia, the group’s director of victim services, told the Blade that her organization also works with the Ruth Ellis Center and other service providers in Detroit and across the state to reach those who remain disproportionately vulnerable to bias-related violence.
Back in California, the Los Angeles Police Department in April issued a set of guidelines designed to improve the way its officers treat trans Angelenos. These include the use of names and pronouns that are consistent with a person’s gender identity and expression and the creation of a separate housing unit for trans prisoners in city jails. The new regulations further prohibit officers from searching or frisking a person to determine their sex.
The LAPD has also adopted a policy that bars officers from asking about a person’s immigration status.
“We inform undocumented people that they can report crimes that happen against them,” said Finney. “Knowing your rights is really empowering for people.”